After that short interruption, we’re back in Diana’s head and we pick up quite literally where we left off:
Four hours later I woke up on top of the duvet, clutching the phone.
– p. 30
I don’t remember her passing out mid-conversation, but let’s go with it.
Diana looks at the clock and realizes she won’t have time for her usual morning ritual of boat-rowing or running. She groans, so we know that this is upsetting for her. It’s also important for us to know what her “normal” morning ritual is, so that when she never ever does it again we’ll know that her life has really and truly changed since the beginning of the book.
Cutting my morning ritual short, I showered and then drank a scalding cup of tea while drying my hair. It was straw blond and unruly, despite the ministrations of a hairbrush. Like most witches, I had a problem getting the shoulder-length strands to stay put. Sarah blamed it on pent-up magic and promised that the regular use of my power would keep the static electricity from building and make my hair more obedient.
First, which copy editor let that run-on sentence go ahead to print, and second: hang on. So if “most” witches have a hard time with “unruly” hair, then why would regular use of her magic help tame it, since she’s already told us that most witches do use their powers?
Do I care enough to keep nit-picking? No. Because I’m keen to move on to the next bit. Fascinatingly, the author has taken four chapters to get to the point where she indulges in one of my single biggest first-person-point-of-view narrative pet peeves: our tragic hero looks in a mirror in order to describe herself, as though seeing her face for the first time.
When I looked into the mirror, my mother’s face stared back. I could no longer remember when I’d developed this strong resemblance to her. […] Today’s check in the mirror also revealed that my skin was pale from lack of sleep. This made my freckles, which I’d inherited from my father, stand out in apparent alarm, and the dark blue circles under my eyes made them appear lighter than usual.
– p. 31
One thing I like is that when poorly-written novel heroines look in the mirror, they never have anything flattering to say. It’s the best combination of, “There I was again, the plainest Jane in all of Maine” and yet three seconds later the hottest man they’ve ever seen is overcome with lust for them.
Fatigue also managed to lengthen my nose and render my chin more pronounced.
– p. 31
Reasonably sure that’s not possible.
I thought of the immaculate Professor Clairmont and wondered what he looked like first thing in the morning. Probably just as pristine as he had last night, I decided–the beast. I grimaced at my reflection.
– p. 31
I told you.
Diana starts to leave, then gets a weird feeling. I assume this is meant to be anteshadowing (?) of Matthew breaking into her room while she slept, but since Diana is not a crack detective or a sleuthy sex kitten, she doesn’t manage to figure out what’s bothering her.
Instead, she heads down to the kitchens, grabs toast, and heads off back to the library, giving us a quick poetical overview of Oxford (because why not) as she goes:
Oxford is quintessentially normal in the morning, with the delivery vans pulled up to college kitchens, the aromas of burned coffee and damp pavement, and fresh rays of sunlight slanting through the mist. It was not a place that seemed likely to harbor vampires.
– p. 31
I’ll keep this reasonably short, but one of the things that always fascinates me about these books is their truly odd world building. Diana is a witch who knows she’s a witch. She grew up around witches. She’s known about vampires and daemons her entire life. So she knows, for a fact, that every place is the type of place “likely” to harbor vampires.
It’s almost like this kind of inner monologue genuinely makes more sense in a book about, say, a mortal woman encountering vampires for the very first time.
If only I could think of an example.
The Bodleian’s blue-jacketed attendant went through his usual routine of scrutinizing my reader’s card as if he had never seen me before and suspected I might be a master book thief.
– p. 30
It’s. His. Job.
Also, you expect him to know you on sight, but you don’t know his name? Cool. Cool.
I will bet you any amount of money that the author is every customer service person’s worst nightmare.
Diana thankfully is released from the hell of having to get her ID checked for five seconds, and carries on through the library which she describes at length again for no reason!
This time she describes its smell, and honestly I think you’ll be fine if I just paraphrase: it smells like old stone, dust, wormwood and paper made from rags. You’re welcome. There are also glowing dust motes dancing in the air. Libraries are magic made real, tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast, etc. You get the point. Libraries: they’re the best.
There’s a very long sequence that includes her humming to herself and nodding at a statue, and I think you’ll forgive me again if I skip it. Either way, Diana notices that Sean (the only librarian she treats like a human being) is frazzled because some hot shot scientist is demanding a lot of books!
In a library?! Wonders never cease.
But here’s the thing: you’ll absolutely never believe this, but the hotshot turns out to be Matthew, and he’s picked the seat directly across from where Diana normally sits. Even though she’s so pale and ugly!!
Mr. Johnson, the head librarian, tells Diana what Matthew’s studying for… some reason:
“Yes. He’s working on the Needham papers and requested good light and room to spread out.”
“Joseph Needham, the historian of Chinese science?” Somewhere around my solar plexus my blood started to seethe.
– p. 32
Pardon the fuck out of me? From around your where?
Well we definitely know Diana isn’t a biologist now.
“Yes. He was a biochemist, too, of course–hence Professor Clairmont’s interest,” Mr. Johnson explained.
– p. 32
(said directly to the audience)
Diana spends a lot of time deciding if she wants to sit across from Professor Clairmont, or on the same bench as him.
The thought of sitting next to a vampire, even with an empty seat between us, was deeply unsettling. Sitting across from one in A4 was unthinkable, however. How could I concentrate, wondering what those strange eyes were seeing?
– p. 32
Ah yes, my other least favorite trope: the fictional woman who doesn’t realize she’s horny.
Anyway, she sits opposite him and then tells us it’s just because this is where she’s most comfortable. Nobody believes her, but it’s fine. We’ve all lied about being horny.
She takes the time to describe Clairmont at length (again) — he looks good and his clothes are very fancy, if you were interested — and then she stops being horny long enough to wonder:
What was Clairmont doing in the library? Why wasn’t he in the lab?
– p. 32
I’m so plain! He couldn’t possibly be here for ME. My hair is sometimes messy and also I have freckles 😦
Also… surely it’s not the most unusual thing in the world for a scientist to study in a library? At some point? Feel free to tell me if I’m wrong.
But Diana is a modern woman and she doesn’t care! She defiantly marches over and sits opposite the vampire.
What will happen next? Well, you’ll have to tune in next time to find out.