Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Tor Books
With the romance of Twilight, the suspense of The Dresden Files, and the delicious thrills of True Blood, the enthralling saga of Magdalena Lazarus unfolds. Descended from the legendary witch of Ein Dor, she alone holds the power to summon the angel Raziel and stop Hitler and his supernatural minions from unleashing total war in Europe. The Nazis have fighters more fearsome than soldiers, weapons more terrifying than missiles, and allies that even they are afraid of SS werewolves; the demon Asmodel who possesses a willing Adolf Hitler, and other supernatural creatures all are literally hell-bent on preventing Magda from possessing the Book of Raziel, a magical text with the power to turn the tide against Hitler’s vast war machine.
Magda, young and rebellious, grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Budapest, unaware of her family’s heritage. When her mother dies, Magda–ready or not–is the Lazarus, who must face the evil that holds Europe in an iron grip. Unready to assume the mantle of her ancient birthright, but knowing that she must fight, she sets out across Europe searching for the Book. Magda is desperate enough to endanger her soul by summoning the avenging angel Raziel. When she sees him in the glory of his celestial presence, her heart is utterly, completely lost…
Lady Lazarus has this otherworldly feel to it. It gave me the same feeling I get when I read books set in Russia or anywhere that is not here, actually. It’s set in a place steeped with history, blood, tears, laughter, joy and sorrow. It is Holocaust literature but it re-envisions that period with werewolves, witches, demons and angels. There is a strong thread of spirituality and religiosity, specifically Judaist traditions, running through it and I found it fascinating to delve into places and events that I have very little knowledge about.
What fascinated me most about this novel was Magda’s gradual decline, if you want to call it that. She is, rather unfairly in my opinion, sent on a suicide mission by her sister to retrieve a book that belongs to her family and that was written by the angel Raziel. Traveling during Hitler’s attempt to eradicate Jews was dangerous enough but throw in a crazy wizard who wants the books for himself, Nazi werewolves, demonnesses and general despair. I liked the world building and I liked that the darker aspects of Magda’s nature are explored. When she returns from the dead, she loses a bit of her spirit and she does it willingly because to fail is to consign her sister and best friend to certain death.
The romance is a bit awkward and too fast, I needed some gradual development in that area but I won’t quibble with it. But it is nothing like Twilight and for the synopsis to compare the two does this book an injustice. Yes, I said it. The portion that Magda spends out of her body and stuck in an envelope is in turns fascinating and frustrating because it halted the story a bit. However, the narrative flows in a way that answers important questions but I think a lot of it may be a bit abstruse for some readers.
I enjoyed it because Magdalena is a fantastic character. Her journey, physical and spiritual, is fun to follow. Couple that with rich history, fascinating settings, thrills and danger, and you’ve got a winner. While the romance is not explicit in the novel and a bit awkward, I did enjoy it more than many others I have read. I will definitely be reading the next one in the trilogy.