review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
“Together we lifted our feet and stepped into the unknown”—the thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.
Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.
Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.
My Take: When we left our heroine Diana, she and Matthew were escaping the present to live in Elizabethan England and find a teacher to help her tame her witchcraft and locate the mysterious manuscript Ashmole 782. If you haven’t read A Discovery of Witches yet, I’d say read it first – you’ll enjoy this book better if you do (my review of A Discovery of Witches is here).
The romance between two different people is what made me love the first novel, even if Matthew was a tad possessive (remind you of another vampire?). In this novel, I felt that Diana sank further into doormat status (the excuse of their being in Elizabethan England was dredged up many times) but still the romance was the essential part that kept me interested. Will they ever consummate their marriage? Matthew’s relationships with the notables of the era (Sir Walter Raleigh! Christopher Marlowe! Queen Elizabeth!) left Diana (and the reader) somewhat starstruck in the beginning.
This book is a historian’s delight, as it details many of the sights, sounds and smells of Elizabethan England, Germany and France. Harkness is a historian and professor of history, and her knowledge of the era shows. Her descriptions are quite evocative … especially the smells!
The novel’s adventures moved along at a pretty fast clip – never a dull moment when you are a time traveler! I liked that the conundrum of knowing that changing the past, even in minor ways, could radically effect the future is shown in a few present-day chapters interspersed with the main story. Lots of political intrigue as well, jealosy and betrayals. A grand adventure for Diana and Matthew, but not without trouble.
Harkness’s style in this novel reminded me somewhat of Diana Gabaldon’s novels, especially in the descriptions of life in ye olden times – plus the similarity that she is writing about a modern woman gone back in time to a male-dominated world, viewing their superstitions and beliefs with a modern eye.
Take a gander and see what you think – and await the third installment, not yet named. There’s a movie deal in the beginning stages as well!
See you in the STACKS! – Nancy