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Nocturne, written by L. D. Harkrader, is a companion novel to A Practical Guide to Vampires. (Wish I coulda found a bigger pic, but this was the best I could find.)

To sum up a premise that could easily be spoilery (I'll do my best to give away as little as possible): Flannery Lane is a fifteen year old girl living with her "Uncle" Anatole who took her in as an infant found on his shop's doorstep - she has strong magical abilities that she keeps secret at his behest, though Uncle Anatole is a known, practicing wizard shopkeeper in the village. When strange, dangerous things begin happening, Flannery finds herself having a harder and harder time not using her magic to help.

Okay, that synopsis is kind of weak. See, I liked the book SO MUCH I didn't really want to give away anything much. Here's the thing: I thought, based off it's Twilight-esque cover and basic description on the back, that Nocturne took place in modern times. But that is oh-so-delightfully wrong!

Actually, Nocturne takes place in the time of cobblestoned streets, carriages, and cloaks with hoods. All the villagers are aware of vampires, werewolves, and other magical creatures and even have their own local lore - an intoxicatingly fun legend involving their own sort of Van Helsing, Lord Blakely. Kind of awesome, right? Well, I certainly thought so!

Right off the bat we meet Flannery (named after the scrap of paper lining her basket as a baby) and her eccentric wizard Uncle, Anatole. It doesn't take long to sense Flan's fierce protectiveness of her Uncle, but also her frustration with him over his forced cautiousness involving magic. I easily came to like both of them, and when the first indication of danger comes (doesn't take long!) I got caught up in it eagerly.

See, the local butcher comes by the shop and asks for Anatole's help with an odd incident that keeps occurring in his store - someone (or something) is breaking in at night and cleaning everything up - stealing nothing but a musical instrument. But the real suspicion comes from Flan's knowledge that something is majorly wrong from her Uncle's reaction, yet he lies and says it is only a friendly brownie (something sort of like an elf). Not really. In fact, it is our first clue of the danger to come.

Very soon Flan's desperation for the success of her Uncle's shop and the fickleness of the villagers is clear - and I felt as she did regarding them. I related to her easily. So by the time she meets a mysterious, handsome stranger I am fully involved in this entertaining, suspenseful, truly escapist-worthy novel.

There is also a story arc for Flan personally, involving her yearning to know the truth of her childhood - who her parents are and why she is so powerful with her magic. This journey of self-discovery is well-plotted and only adds to the overall enjoyment. There was a couple of twists I guessed correctly, but that didn't take away even an ounce of my utter entertainment!

The ambiance of Nocturne is very hypnotic, eerie, ominous, and exciting - making for an excellent, page-turner of a supernatural adventure novel - all leading up to one heck of a suspenseful, satisfying climax!

To be honest with you, bibliophiles, I can't help but wonder if all the companion novels printed by Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons series are as good as Nocturne. Because, if they are, I want to read more of them!!!

And I wouldn't be surprised if you agree with me! Check Nocturne out! :)


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