The Giftsnatcher by Charity Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Alana and her sister Irina make their living pretending to be witches in Victorian London. And it is partially true, except that "witchcraft" for Alana is actually a talent, a spiritual gift as it were, the gift of being able to take the spiritual gifts, or talents, of others. She collects them, hoards them, and sells them sometimes for a profit or gives the gifts of others away. Her life, in its own way, is peaceful and mundane until Lord Tremaine steps through the door with his grandson, desperately trying to find a way to put the pieces of Edgar's tattered magic back together. Alana never imagines that agreeing to find a magic strong enough to heal Edgar's brokenness will lead her down a dark path of evil shades leaping at her from corners, or that she would ever encounter Dr. Joseph Bell, a hunter whose spiritual gift is to fight the evil of the world. The more Alana discovers about Edgar's family, the more she realizes that she is racing against time and that it may run out before she unlocks the secrets of the Tremain family.
I was already sold on the works of Ms. Bishop with her first novel, I, Claudia: A Tale of Pontius Pilate. Her skills improve with each subsequent story, and while my favorite of her books remains The Secret in Belfast, I still love The Giftsnatcher for its ingenuity and for bringing one of my favorite historic character, Dr. Joseph Bell, to life. More on him in a moment. The story of The Giftsnatcher follows a character previously introduced in The Secret in Belfast, that of Alana, the Giftsnatcher herself. To my delight, not only is Alana the main character, but Richard, the hero of the aforementioned novel also has a bit part to play, along with two of my favorite characters of Ms. Bishop's design, Alistair the Defender and Henoria the Guardian from Thornewicke. Sadly, Byron didn't put in an appearance, but I am anticipating when Ms. Bishop gives him a story of his own.
As for why I love this book, it boils down to Dr. Bell. Ms. Bishop often includes historic individuals in her work, like Nikola Tesla in Thornewicke and so on, but Dr. Bell is a stroke of genius. For the uninformed, he was a professor at Edinburgh, a doctor, and the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The man himself has always intrigued me, and while he has been given screen time in the miniseries Murder Rooms, Dr. Bell's faith is sadly absent, an error rectified by Ms. Bishop. Dr. Joseph Bell was a staunch Christian, nothing more, nothing less, and she honestly proclaims that fact, something for which I am very grateful. Plus, she made him seriously badass! I mean, he's a hunter for crying out loud, with guns and knives and stakes and things. He is awesome!
The plot itself is an intriguing glimpse into the imaginary pondering about the Jack the Ripper case of which every westernized human being is familiar. Ms. Bishop has done the unthinkable and actually conjured a new theory, and while it is quite impossible for it to be true, it is still an excellent fit for the speculative world she has invented.
I think that if the more imaginary reader is willing to engulf themselves with Ms. Bishop's literary world, they will not be disappointed. Her first person style does take some getting used to, but after the 2nd book, it's not even noticeable anymore. One thing I deeply appreciate is her dedication to excellence in her editing. This is not a self-published work that is written, glanced over once by the author, and then tossed out into the world. Much thought, design, and, to be honest, chopping goes into each of Ms. Bishop's books, resulting in highly polished works of fiction good enough to be accepted by official publishers, and far better than some of the work already being published.
So, while The Giftsntacher is not my favorite in her series, it still receives the highest of marks from me and I can hardly wait for her next release!
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