Sunday, August 06, 2017

Review: The Library of Light and Shadow by M. J. Rose

I've enjoyed M. J. Rose's novels, especially the more recent novels that delve into the occult and art, and find intriguing the journeys I make with Ms. Rose into what I thought was history carved deeply into marble. History is more than dates, battles, and details about the famous and infamous. History is as unfinished as art and just as surprising and awe inspiring.

As I began "The Library of Light and Shadow," I was reminded of a book I had recently read, "The Witch of Painted Sorrows," and was ensorceled once again. What began with the social whirl in post World War I New York encompassed so much more than was at first hinted at. Delphine, the artist in question, painted her subjects wearing a crimson blindfold while she sketched their secrets hidden in their souls and bringing them to life and light. The darkest secret lay within Delphine and not because she is a daughter of the cursed and haunted La Lune, a female artist who broke the chains of social etiquette and the second-hand life of women of a certain class. La Lune was so much more than being born as a woman and so much less than the daughter of courtesans.

Delphine's story begins and revolves around a life half lived based on fear -- fear of her talent, her family's legacy, and true love. While Delphine dons the crimson blindfold, she is blinded by fear and the inability to see those she loves in clear light. She fears her gift of bringing the unspeakable into the light almost as much as she fears a deep and all encompassing love she has run from Paris to protect.

Madame Calve', La Diva, a celebrated star of Opera who delves into the hidden secrets of alchemy and magic, approaches Delphine to find the "Book of Abraham" that was hidden by Nicholas Flamel somewhere in the castle she bought 30 years before, certain Delphine is the artist who works in shadows and can uncover the centuries old hiding place that has eluded her so long. Madame invites Delphine and Sebastian, her brother and manager to her castle to find where the book has been hidden.

For a week, Sebastian and Delphine, reside in Madame's Millau castle and strive to shine a light into the darkness surrounding Flamel's legacy, donning the scarlet blindfold to pierce the shadows and bring the past to light. In spite of her fears about what she will unleash, Delphine brings to light many hidden aspects of the castle, from a dungeon to a hidden library, but fails to discover Flamel's hidden tome. As the remaining time ticks down to the party Madame is hosting that will include Delphine's true and first love, Delphine gives into her passion and her desire to reunite with Matthieu, the love she ran from five years before when her gift showed her that she would be the death of him.

At first, I was certain that Delphine was running from Matthieu's already accomplished death. He was not dead. She had painted him blindfolded and envisioned that she would kill him and could not countenance his death by her hand. Matthieu was not dead and Delphine had not witnessed his death. She had merely seen his death at her hands and had run to New York City to make certain La Lune's curse would not find her. Delphine loved Matthieu so deeply that she was willing to walk away rather than let La Lune or her family's curse end him.

Delphine had been blinded when she was very young and her brother Sebastian had held her hand and protected her until her mother, a very powerful witch who had conquered La Lune's magic, restored her sight, and kindled the gift that allowed Delphine to use the blindfold in order to see the deepest secrets of her subjects' lives and bring them to the canvas. Her gift was as much a curse as a blessing as Delphine laid bare what she found as she saw beyond vision. One of her subjects committed suicide rather than allow her secrets to be so displayed.

Throughout the novel, "The Library of Light and Shadow," walks the fine line between curse and blessing, oftentimes never realizing Delphine, for all her talents and abilities, has never truly seen the truth. She remains blind and unprepared for what keeps hidden in broad daylight, flailing about until the light shines clearly and all of her assumptions and sacrifices have been in vain. M. J. Rose keeps the reader enthralled and appalled until the end. Truly a magical and and enthralling tale that will keep the reader guessing right up to the close. Rose brings art and the world in the aftermath of the War to End all Wars to life where every moment is as necessary as the brushstrokes that give reality to the unthinkable. Once again Rose brings brilliance to the shadows of turn-of-the-century art with magic that transcends history and reality. Rose never disappoints. 

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