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. (Summary provided by Viking Adult.)
Shadow of Night is book two in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I read the first book in the trilogy, A Discovery of Witches, way back in April of 2011. I absolutely loved A Discovery of Witches, but so much time had passed between the release of A Discovery of Witches and the release of Shadow Of Night that I was a little lost when I first started reading Shadow of Night. Shadow of Night picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off, so I had to go back and skim through A Discovery of Witches to reacquaint myself with the series. Once I remembered what happened at the end of the previous novel, I was ready to jump into Diana and Matthew’s world once again!
Shadow of Night starts off a bit slow as Harkness establishes the setting of the book. Matthew and Diana travel through time to Elizabethan England so they can continue their search for Ashmole 782 and find a witch to unlock Diana’s powers and mentor her. Diana and Matthew first arrive in Elizabethan England in Woodstock and it soon becomes clear that Matthew is “kind of a big deal” in England during this time period. He is a part of the famous School of Night. However, despite Matthew’s connections, he can’t keep Diana safe from the scrutiny of human villagers on the hunt for witches for very long. Matthew and Diana then journey to Matthew’s parent’s estate, Sept-Tours. This is where the book really took off for me as a reader. I love reading about Matthew’s family. Matthew’s father, Phillipe is a fascinating character. One second he terrifies readers. The next he is endearing. Phillipe is written with complexity and I really hope to read more about him in the conclusion to the trilogy.While at Sept-Tours a significant event happens. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but it involves a truly fabulous gown and a great feast. Harkness immerses readers in the Elizabethan Age from the clothing to the etiquette to the trappings of royalty of the time period. I was simply enchanted by Harkness’s ability to portray the past so clearly for her readers.
After Diane and Matthew leave Sept-Tours, they arrive in Black Friars, London where Diana finally finds instruction for how to use her powers. It turns out she has a rare ability that few witches are born with. The highlights of the Blackfriars sections of Shadow of Night were Diane’s visits with Mary Sidney, an alchemist that Diana has a few quite memorable scenes with (one of which involves a gorgeous shoe, and another involves a changing mural). Another standout was “Father” Andrew Hubbard, ruler of London vampires, witches, and daemons. He was one of the creepiest characters I’ve come across in a while.
Diana and Matthew’s search for Ashmole 782 leads them to Prague. While in Prague Diana and Matthew must cater to the whims of Rudolf II, The Holy Roman Emperor, in order to gain access to Ashmole 782. I feel like this section of the book may supply possible plot points for the next book in the series, however it was a little long. I was longing for them to get back to Blackfriars the entire time they were in Prague. But at the same time the Prague section was clearly important with regards to the third book and significant to the plot of Shadow of Night as well. I just really liked the London sections.
Once they are finished in Prague, it is back to Blackfriars. There is more than one major surprise in store for Diana in addition to much drama and a bloody battle over her and Matthew’s relationship. When the time comes for Diana and Matthew to travel back to the modern day, they make a surprising choice that left me a little perplexed, but I’m interested to know how the choice will play out in the third book. (I know I’m being vague, but I really hate giving spoilers.)
I love books with paranormal, time travel and romantic themes, and Shadow of Night had just the right balance of romance and intrigue to keep me turning the pages rapidly. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy paranormal romance, historical fiction, and/or books with a time travel theme.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for preview from NetGalley, and I receive a small commission from any purchases made by clicking through the Amazon links on this site.