Have you ever read a book where you've loved one half of it and then felt completely lost for the second half? Unfortunately that was me with Gene of Isis. And I'm not completely sure it's Traci Harding's fault either.
This book is divided into three sections set in three separate times: 13th Century France, 19th Century England and modern day Australia. An interesting combination but it works for variety! The novel begins with the story of Lady Ashlee (19th Century England) and follows her troubles as a child who can see and talk to spirits. Reading about her struggle to make sense of what she sees and her refusal to identify herself as abnormal is truly gut-wrenching. I was on the edge of my seat with horror and suspense when she is committed to a mental hospital at a young age after embarrassing her high-flying parents with her 'gift'.
Likewise, I continued to fly through the pages as she embarks on psychic training and has her debut in society. About 200 pages into this novel I was describing it as part-fantasy, part-historical, part-romance - the perfect combination!
Unfortunately, I got lost somewhere along the way. And it happened to be round about the time the author introduced the modern day character and began talking about the Holy Grail and the secret bloodline of Mary Magdalene.
It's not that this story line doesn't interest me, or even that it offends me. It's actually quite the opposite. I am a major ignoramus when it comes to Biblical studies and Christian history. So for me, the links between Bible stories and this book were really unclear. I just didn't really get it. I got the Da Vinci Code and all the connections but I really failed here. I felt like I was doing a paint-by-numbers but without the numbers....
Harding's writing style is really quite easy to read and she does a wonderful job of keeping up the suspense over a 600 page novel. So if you do have better knowledge than I do about religious history and are not easily offended by some pretty radical twists on religion then you may find you really enjoy this novel. It is quite clear that it is highly researched and thought-out.
I'm not sure I'll continue with this series however I will definitely read more of the author's work. If this had been a story solely about Ashlee and hadn't involved the Holy Grail, I can imagine it really would've been one of my favourites. Traci Harding really is a brilliant writer.