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.”
Deborah Harkness starts Shadow Of Night exactly where A Discovery of Witches left off with our heroes, Diana & Matthew, preparing to go back in time in an effort to give Diana the opportunity to learn more about her powers from some of history’s strongest witches. Meanwhile, their family and friends will scatter all over the globe in an effort to avoid the nefarious groups out to kill Diana.
Shadow of Night is teeming with action; a complete turnaround from the first novel. The action is so fast paced it was hard for me to keep up. Diana and Matthew find themselves hiding in Elizabethan England – the golden era of alchemy. The couple struggles with a variety of issues. First, Matthew has already lived in this era and it is imperative that he not arouse suspicion among his friends and colleagues. Second, Diana, although a scholar of the time is by no means an expert. Can she really convince everyone that she is not out of place? Third, how can Diana and Matthew find witches who are willing to teach Diana during the height of the witch trials especially when Matthew is known as a witch hunter? Fourth, can they manage to accomplish their goals without changing history? The list goes on and on.
Harkness’s passion for this period is easy to see and she imbues Diana with the same passion. The cast of characters in this novel is a veritable who’s who of influential Elizabethan notables. I imagine Harkness at her desk listing every Elizabethan hero she has ever had and then plotting how to include them in her novel. Which leads me to another point – Matthew is apparently some kind of superman. Really! Not only is his a long lived vampire with tons of money but he knows the ‘creme de la creme’ of European society. So in other words – have no fear! Diana will not only meet witches, she will meet Sir Walter Raleigh and Kit Marlowe, and – wait for it – she will even meet Queen Elizabeth I! Because if you are going to write a complicated story what better way to solve all your problems then to make your heroine’s husband the leader of an international secret brotherhood that may happen to be – you guessed it – The Knights Templar. Harkness throws in the kitchen sink for good measure.
And Diana – courageous, intelligent, inquisitive Diana – is having such a great time living among her historical heroes – that she spends months in the past and barely accomplished their goal of learning how to use her magic. This is where Harkness really falters. I lost my faith in the story when Harkness allowed Diana and Matthew to become so fully integrated in the past while risking the future.
There are some beautiful moments in the novel. Matthew is given the opportunity to see his father one more time. Diana and Matthew are given the chance to form a family. Several extended family members on Matthews side are introduced in this novel adding great color and laughs. Diana learns more about her family through a chance encounter with her father in the past! But other sub-plots are contrived and taxing – Kit Marlowe’s infatuation with Matthew. The ridiculous contraception story line. The overbearing arc regarding Matthew’s need to feed on humans and even kill.
Shadow of Night is over the top. It is a dazzling romance for history buffs of the Elizabethan age. But this novel is devoid of real emotion for anything other than the intellectual.