I'll say it again, seldom does a sequel trump the first book in a series. That's not to say it wasn't a decent offering, but it's like a second helping of dessert, never as tasty as that first bite. And, if you haven't read the first book in Alexander's series, you'll probably be a bit lost. In my opinion, this book is not exactly a standalone. Take my advice and read The Secrets of Life and Death before picking up the second book in the Jackdaw Hammond series. It'll make more sense. Let me also say this, I kind of feel tricked, like maybe I signed up for one thing and got another. I dunno. I just wasn't crazy about the direction this book took. The present day story, the world that Jackdaw Hammond inhabits, seemed to putter along. I was nearly 200-plus pages in before anything substantial happened. However, when Alexander revisits the character of alchemist Edward Kelly, sans John Dee, the story is always interesting. Kelly is never far from Countess Erzsébet Báthory and the Inquisition is still after both. Kelly's nomadic life is once again in danger and he faces seriously scary foes. A couple of scenes were rather chilling. Towards the end, both stories melded together and each was equally good. And, the ending? Never. Saw. It. Coming. Overall, I liked the book well enough to read the next book in the series. There just has to be a Jackdaw Hammond #3.
*I received an ARC from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.