We jump to Diana walking home. She walks quickly and everything seems spooky because a handsome man asked her out to dinner (okay, fine, he’s also a stalker).
She gets home. She feels safe because she needs a key card to get into New College, where she’s staying. Surely no one could breach this infrastructure. No one at all.
But in the midst of rushing to safety, she gives us this quick snapshot:
I skirted under the chapel windows and through the narrow passage into the quad that had views of Oxford’s only surviving medieval garden, complete with the traditional mound that had once offered a green prospect for students to look upon and contemplate the mysteries of God and nature.
– p. 21
Much like with the earlier description of the library, this fairly pointless passage interrupts what’s supposed to be a moment of action. Diana is hurrying to her rooms because she’s just had a frightening encounter with a man who is probably stalking her.
The idea that she would pause in the midst of that to go, “Wow, this really makes me reflect on how this was once a place for students in the medieval era to contemplate the mysteries of God” just seems unlikely in her current state.
This, really, is what’s making these recaps so gruelling at the moment — the stop-and-start nature of the writing means that it’s hard to figure out why Diana is ever feeling anything, quite frankly. Because someone who wants to convey fear probably shouldn’t stop to tell us about the simply gorgeous views and dizzying Gothic architecture like she’s narrating a cozy BBC documentary.
That’s my rant for this recap.
She goes inside her rooms and gives us a lengthy, mostly unnecessary description of her tiny rooms, so I feel comfortable skipping it.
She goes to the kitchen to make her favorite food — toast. You think I’m joking, but the references to toast in this book will eventually become absurd. This bitch lives for toast.
Anyway, she opens her windows to let “cool air into the stuffy rooms” (classic mistake when being stalked by a vampire) and then turns on some Mozart because she’s fancy.
Without a real page break or transition, we’re suddenly jolted forward to 3:30am (?!)
I woke with a pounding heart, a stiff neck, and the strong taste of cloves in my mouth.
The exact same scent as our Yankee Candle Vampire? What a coincidence.
She gets up, gets a glass of water, shuts the window (excellent vampire blocker), and then calls her aunt Sarah.
But first, she first pauses to let us know the following:
I was out of my grimy clothes in a matter of minutes–how do you get so filthy in a library?–and into a pair of old yoga pants and a black sweater with a stretched-out neck.
Great. Essential in this moment.
Now she’s ready to make her phone call.
“We’ve been waiting for your call,” were the first words I heard.
– p. 21
I secretly live for how mundane this supernatural world is. Daemons losing their keys! Vampires doing science! Witches knowing someone will call mere seconds before they do! It’s hard to believe these creatures have flown under the radar of human perception for so long with these stunning abilities.
Anyway, this conversation is — you guessed it — boring. So I’ll summarize as best I can.
Diana’s two aunts, Emily and Sarah, are lesbian witch lovers. Sarah is Diana’s mother’s younger sister. Emily was Diana’s mother’s best friend. They have a cat named Tabitha. These are your relevant dramatic personae to understand what comes next.
Sarah’s worried because:
“Tabitha has been skittish all evening, Em got a very clear picture of you lost in the woods at night, and I haven’t been able to eat anything since breakfast.”
Conclusive evidence if I’ve ever heard it.
And, because we can’t even complete a simple phone conversation without a fucking mountain of back story, we break to learn more about Emily. This book hates me and wants me to suffer.
Here are your cliffs notes:
Emily and Rebecca Bishop (Diana’s mom) were friends since high school “in the summer at Plimoth Plantation, where they dug holes and pushed wheel-barrows for archaeologists”. No, this will never come up again.
The two became pen-pals when they left for college. Then Sarah and Emily hooked up, but kept it secret. But then we’re also told that everyone knew and was fine with their relationship. So… no problem, then.
Anyway, back to the conversation. Diana says she’s not partying it up for Mabon, then lets the reader know that Emily and (that bitch!) Gillian’s mother hooked up one summer. This will never be relevant either.
Diana recounts meeting Matthew. Her aunts tell her to stay away from him, because vampires are dangerous. Then we’re given a little more ominous world building from Sarah:
“Witches, vampires, and daemons aren’t supposed to mix. You know that. Humans are more likely to notice us when we do. No daemon or vampire is worth the risk.”
Our first hint at the secret segregation of the supernatural world. What a brilliant metaphor for… homophobia? Racism? X-Men? Take your pick.
We’re also told that Sarah’s a bit of a bigot herself, because:
Humans struck her as unfortunate little beings blind to the world around them. Daemons were perpetual teenagers who couldn’t be trusted. Vampires were well below cats and at least one step below mutts within her hierarchy of creatures.
The conversation continues, the aunts give more dire, dramatic warnings like “[Vampires] love nothing more than the taste of a witch’s blood”!!!!! and then urge Diana to use her magic more for protection. Somehow.
But Diana refuses — she simply shan’t use magic as an “easy out” in life. Because “I protect myself from a vampire in a library today, and tomorrow I protect myself from a hard question at a lecture.”
The notion of conflating self-protection with “cheating” at work is… absolutely bizarre. And even if Diana is meant to be intentionally naive, the trope of the “reluctant witch” is a little played out in general. But this is what we’re working with. So we trudge forward.
Anyway, they keep giving her dire warnings, she keeps telling them everything’s fine — apart from letting slip that he kind of stalked her. But then they convince her that’s probably fine (?) because her photo is on the back cover of her book (??) so that’s probably how he knew who she was (???). Which is a weird (quasi-gaslighting) take for them to have after telling her repeatedly how dangerous he was. But this book is nothing if inconsistent.
We end on this foreboding (not really) note:
Em wasn’t as good at seeing the future as my mother was reputed to have been, but something was niggling at her. Convincing a witch to share a vague premonition was almost impossible. She wasn’t going to share what worried her about Matthew Clairmont. Not yet.
How convenient to the plot.
With that — and I swear to God I’m not joking — we wrap up the second chapter.