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review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Written By: Word Nerd - Jul• 19•12

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, Book 2)

Deborah Harkness

Viking Adult/fantasy, historical fiction

Release Date: July 10, 2012

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.

I was incredibly disappointed by Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls Trilogy.  However, the last few pages sparked something that made me think the second book might be a more enjoyable read. 

The Diana in this story is not a limp and delicate flower that requires constant care.  The Diana in this story has a mind, opinions and she can walk all over town (actually, all over time) without assistance.  In short, she is a fully fledged and likable character!

Matthew remains dark and brooding, but we finally get to see how he came to be that way, rather than “he’s just a vampire”.   As his immortality unfolds before the reader, Matthew actually appears more human.  He isn’t “just a vampire”, but a man who has many responsibilities, many memories he cannot erase and an infinite number of lifetimes to experience loss. 

The cast of supporting characters and rich historical setting are superbly done.  The relationships are complex and my heart tugged with some of the decisions that had to be made. For the complete nerds in the audience (raises hand), Harkness provides a list of characters at the end of the book, noting which are true historical figures and which are fictional. 

My verdict:  Read it!  I am so glad that I did not let my disappointment in Discovery of Witches stop me from reading Shadow of Night.  I am eagerly awaiting the third book, as well as the theatrical adaptation.  I have one small rant (SPOILER ALERT!!): What is it with vampires and their supernatural sperm? I get the distinct feeling that we could put an end to all infertility with one vial of that stuff.  Are they vampires or NBA players? Dial it back a notch, guys!

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