There are some here who know I'm an unapologetic fan of this series, but fan or not, I'm generally not the type to buy the "guides" the more popular series put out because in all truth, they feel like something that's been thrown together to squeeze just that much more money out of everyone; especially completists.
But the cover of this one sucked me in at the Barnes and Noble and BN was the first bookshop stop on my Holiday of Book Buying Madness, so I caved.
Yay to caving! It ended up being really interesting, as evidenced by the fact that it took me three weeks to read the damn thing. Harkness et al manage to weave an awful lot of historical facts into a book about books that are about vampires, witches and demons. This is the place where Harkness gets to share all her historical knowledge, research and education that went into giving Matthew and Diana's adventures verisimilitude, as well as brilliantly weaving the lives of the vampires (and Diana to a lesser extent) into history.
She's really clever about this too; using real documents that have gone missing, or paintings done during the correct period that are of unknown subjects or known to have been destroyed over time, she's able to plausibly weave fact and fiction together without an abundance of anachronisms. Little asides throughout the book in her own voice shares with the reader her inspirations for locations, homes, castles, even tea shops.
I had no problem seeing the delineation between the factual and the fictional, but in the section where the characters are outlined, a symbol is next to each name that does exist in the historical records, a touch I appreciated since Elizabethan history is something I'm hazy about, at best.
There are beautiful illustrations throughout, a couple of out-takes from two of the books, and a few full color illustrations from - I think - alchemical texts. This was, in fact, my only complaint about the book - the full color inserts were not captioned - an odd oversight where everything else is clearly foot-noted and cited or explained within the narrative. At one point Harkness' own historical research was used as a citation, leading me to believe the authors' were determined to be as clear and accurate as possible. Perhaps this means the color inserts were the work of the illustrator for the book, and not historical, but it would be nice to know either way.
A fun and very informative read for those that enjoyed the trilogy; not sure how well it would work for those that didn't read it as it might be annoying to have fictional characters you know nothing about, or care nothing for, interwoven through all the historical goodies.
I read this for the New Release square of Halloween Bingo 2018.