Eternal Love
Maggie Shayne
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East meets West across time and tradition as three young American women and their Indian immigrant mothers take first steps toward true sisterhood, shattering secrets and sharing joy and tears in Maggie Shayne's
Eternal Love (Berkley Sensation)
.




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Eternal Love (Berkley Sensation)
Maggie Shayne
Berkley Sensation
Paperback
576 pages
November 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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This book contains the two novels Eternity and Infinity, first published individually in the late 1990s, which feature two sisters who are part of a small group of immortal witches. They gained their immortality by giving up their lives for a witch in a previous life.

The first story, "Eternity", focuses on Raven St. James, a young woman who is learning her craft as a witch from her mother. However, when she and her mother are denounced by a priest to the local magistrate they are ordered to be hanged. A trainee priest, Duncan Wallace, tries to save Raven's life but is unsuccessful, and she is hanged along with her mother. The shocking events of their trial cause a breach between Duncan and Nathanial, his training priest, and he decides to set out to the New World to see if people are more accepting of others in that country. On the journey across, he becomes ill and is tended by a woman he is sure is Raven, although she doesn't admit to being the young woman he saw die, and he loses touch with her as soon as they arrive in Boston.

The story continues with Raven making her life in Sanctuary, living with her aunt, and trying to avoid the notice of the religious authorities. When Duncan arrives at Sanctuary to be their priest, she realizes her past is catching up with her and that Duncan, who cannot be told what she is, may be in danger. The story skips forward three hundred years when Raven has another chance to have a relationship with Duncan, who has been reborn in this time, and she hopes this time to trust him fully. However, their foe from three centuries ago also has had his eye on Duncan for a long time, and Duncan isn't going to want to believe the wild tales of immortality and evil and good witches. It's possible Raven may have to give her life to save Duncan's this time.

The story is well-written with some interesting detail of the witch trials in England and America in the 1700s. An awkwardness is the way that parts written from Raven's point of view are written in the first person, but the other sections in the third person, which makes the story feel disjointed and odd. It's written with quite a New-Agey feel, and Christianity doesn't come across too well; those for whom this might be uncomfortable reading might do better missing it. However, the overall plot is interesting and the supporting character, Arianna, who is the heroine of the next story, is a strong, feisty woman whose own life tragedy runs through the events of this story.

The second story in this book is "Infinity", and it follows Arianna, who featured in "Eternity", although the first-person narrative is from the point of view of Nicodimus Lachlan, an Immortal High Witch whose wife and children died back in the 700s and from whose loss he has never recovered. When Nicodimus returns to the village of Stonehaven in Scotland, he realizes that the young girl of fourteen he saw last time, Arianna, has grown to be a very independent woman on the cusp of her eighteenth birthday. She is also in a great deal of trouble with the other villagers suspicious of her. She spends time with the three women known as The Crones, who are thought to be witches, and some of Arianna's own behavior is unusual. She is supposed to be betrothed to a local boy but refuses to submit, and her family life is difficult since the death of her sister, Raven, some years before.

Nicodimus finds himself intervening a little, trying to warn Arianna to be careful but realizing that her personality is that of a free spirit. When frightening events take place in the village, they end up betrothed for her safety, and in due course married. But Nicodimus doesn't want to feel love again, and Arianna doesn't yet know of her future as an Immortal High Witch. Before long, the problems that have dogged Nicodimus throughout his life come to find him at Stonehaven, and Arianna is dragged into them, along with other villagers and another Immortal High Witch, Nidaba, who has been a friend to Nicodimus his whole life.

This story, like "Eternity", is in two parts, separated by hundreds of years. There is a short chapter which overlaps events in "Eternity" where Arianna and Raven free the hearts of trapped High Witches and Arianna believes one is that of Nicodimus, who was imprisoned by Nathanial Dearborne hundreds of years before. When Arianna is able to reunite Nicodimus's heart with his body, he remembers her as his enemy, not his wife. This part of the story feels rushed, and the "happy ever after" ending comes too quickly, along with a revelation about Nidaba which I hadn't expected.

"Infinity" is a reasonable read, and Arianna is certainly an interesting character, although one who tends to rush headlong into things and not consider others' opinions, finding it acceptable to lie to get her own way; she isn't always appealing. Their love story feels tender, although I wasn't entirely sure what Nicodimus saw in her. Again, there is a high emphasis on New-Agey mysticism and a negative view of Christianity in this story, but it's an interesting read, not least in that it reminds us of the witch-hunting trials and many of the awful things that were done at that time to those who were different.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Helen Hancox, 2007

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