Review & Giveaway: THE DEVIL’S DIADEM by Sara Douglass

If you read this blog often, you know I’m not a huge reader of traditional fantasy. Not because I don’t like it (although more than one name with odd apostrophes, like Lord Ar’guth’nirz, do make me break out in hives), but because I usually miss the first or third or tenth in the series and don’t have time to play catch-up. (Although I swear I will read the George RR Martin Ice and Fire series one day. Seriously.)

So I was excited to get The Devil’s Diadem by Sara Douglass. First, it’s a standalone fantasy, so I knew I could read it without feeling lost. Second, there’s not a single weirdly apostrophe’d, unpronounceable name. Third, it has to do with medieval plagues and alleged witchcraft and demons and all those historical British things that make my eyes light up like my terrier’s when she sees a new bag of chicken jerky coming into the house. *Nod to Shane O’Mac the Irish Terror Terrier.*

The Official Blurb:
Bestselling author Sara Douglass—acclaimed writer of the Axis and Wayfarer Redemption trilogies—invites you to visit a twelfth-century England very similar to our own—except this England is a country on the brink of demonic disaster and its only hope may lie with a young noblewoman. 

       Maeb Langtofte is lucky, she knows, to have gained a position in the household of the Earl of Pengraic—one of the most powerful men in England, a man whose holdings rival even King Edmond’s. She is lucky that his wife, Adelie, whom Maeb serves, is a kind, pious woman (in contrast to the Earl, whom Maeb finds dark and secretive). But when word arrives that a plague is sweeping through Europe like a human wildfire, everyone in the Earl’s household is put on edge. It is whispered that victims of this plague are spontaneously engulfed in flames—as if the flames of Hell had suddenly leapt up to claim them. It is also whispered that the Devil himself is to blame.
       As the disease spreads into England, so too does civil unrest. King Edmond calls his lords and their armies to return to London, and the Earl obeys, leaving Maeb and his family to fend for themselves. But it turns out that the Earl has been hiding far more than simple state secrets, and that his family, left alone, is at risk of losing not only their lives but also their souls. To her horror, Maeb will learn that, indeed, the Devil himself may have arrived on her doorstep. And worse, what he demands may, in fact, be running through her very veins.

My thoughts:
Loved this book from the first chapter–I didn’t even need a warming-up period. Maeb is naive, sheltered, and from a good family run to seed. So taking a job as one of three women tending to pregnant Lady Adelie  and her brood of children (that lusty Earl!) was Maeb’s only option other than joining a nunnery. And she’s got a bit too much backbone to join a nunnery. There’s a flirtation with the Earl’s eldest son, Stephen, and the mysteries surrounding the earl himself, to keep the story percolating along even before the journey to creepy Pengraic Castle and the onslaught of the Devil’s plague. And when plague victims spontaneously combust, is it a bizarre chemical reaction caused by a virulent disease–or really the work of the Devil himself?
    Great characters, crisp writing, and a story that leaves you guessing as it takes twists and turns…all makes for a great read. It’s kind of a sad, thoughtful book despite moments of lightness, but I loved it anyway.

Want to win a copy of The Devil’s Diadem? Just say so.  And if you’ve read other of Sara Douglass’ series, what did you think of them? Note that this contest is for an ARC. You know the usual: 1 entry for comment, a second for a blog follow, a third for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a Tweet or Retweet.

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban and paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense, currently living in Auburn, Alabama. Author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, and Belle Chasse (Nov 2016). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the upcoming Wilds of the Bayou series (Book 1, Wild Man's Curse) releases April 2016).

24 thoughts on “Review & Giveaway: THE DEVIL’S DIADEM by Sara Douglass

  1. Thanks for the giveaway! I don’t read traditional fantasy either, so to read your review on this, I’m encouraged to give it a go!

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  2. Suzanne,

    Great review. I have recently started collecting books by Sara Douglass. She was recommended by a friend. I totally understand about reading a book in a series out of order and being lost…hence the collecting!

    I would love to read Ms. Douglass’ stand alone novel The Devil’s Diadem!

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    ReneeRearden(at)yahoo(dot)com

  3. I do love fantasy, but have the same problem with keeping up on the series. Standalones should be more prevalent! Enter me, please!

    (I’m a blog follower)
    moecatj[at]msn[dot]com

  4. Oooh, I love me some fantasy :)) Used to read a lot of it, before the explosion of UF genre. No, I haven’t read this author before, but I like standalone fantasies. Series in fantasy are usually huge and unless you are there from the beginning, it’s really hard to commit to a catch-up. Yes, Jacqueline Carey, I’m talking about you!
    Anyway, thanks for the sheer awesomeness of this giveaway again!
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  5. Looks like a pretty sweet book!

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    @Laoith on twitter

  6. This book sounds awesome, thanks so much for the chance to win!

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    m(dot)ceschini(at)msn(dot)com

  7. I love fantasy because you can play with it–and I like how gritty this story sounds. The mix of brutal reality and magic is something that will always draw me.

    And better yet a stand alone fantasy! 🙂
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    Have a great day!

  8. I’d love to play please.

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    lesly7ch(at)yahoo(dot)com

  9. Love traditional, stand-alone fantasy! This one sounds wonderful.

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  10. I agree with everything you said about conventional fantasy, especially the names with apostrophies! If I have to stop every time I read a name to try to sound it out, it completely breaks my flow, and for some reason I can’t just skim over it! I’ve got to be able to say it along with the book! Weird, I know.

    Thanks for a great review and an awesome giveaway:)

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  11. Would love to read this! I’m a fan of the fantasy genre but there are just SO MANY long series. I’ve largely decided not to begin any until they are completed, so I’ve not read The Wheel of Time or Martin’s work either. A standalone would be very welcome!

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  12. Sara Douglass’s Threshold is one of my favourite books, and also a standalone fantasy! You might want to try that one as well since you really liked this one.

    I also agree about the apostrophe name thing. I like simple names that are easy to pronounce!

  13. Sara Douglas is a new author to me, as well as the fantasy genre. I’ve read a bit of urban fantasy (really liked it) but fantasy in itself, no.

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  14. Thanks for the giveaway.

    I have read quite a lot of Sara’s books and still have a few to go to complete the series I am reading at the moment.

    I have read a review of this standalone and it was quite good so please enter me in the giveaway.

    While I totally agree with you that the trend in so many fantasies to use apostrophes in names is ridiculous, I haven’t let it stop me reading epic fantasy.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

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