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5 Stars: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I’m off in the wilderness of Chicago right now, so my book-loving mom has stopped by to tell you about her latest awesome book!

I have always loved historical fiction; so when Shadow of Night became available in our house, I hurried through projects to give myself time to savor a second serving of Dr. Harkness’ rich and satisfying story of two unlikely lovers in search of a book and answers to questions that stretch across centuries.

5 Stars: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy #2)
Published by Viking Adult on July 10th, 2012
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Length: 584 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
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Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library,she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers...

5 Stars

Strengths:

  • The historical details of Shadow of Night were delightful, especially since so much was focused on the daily, domestic side of life – what ordinary people wore, how they got their meals, where they shopped (and for what), where they lived, how they traveled, and so on. While famous personages strut across the stage as expected, Harkness has arranged for a believable rationale for the convergences and does not let them distract from the equally important relationships with friends, family, enemies and household.    This is the type of history that I have always enjoyed far more than the lists of battles or of heads of state.  I like my history lessons to tell me how people lived from day to day, what they cared about, and what worried them.
  • Diana’s strength of character returns quickly in Shadow of Night.  She is a person out of place and vulnerable, but she applies her very capable intellect and figures out how to solve her own problems, much to the consternation of her husband.
  • Time traveling poses many problems.  On the whole, Harkness takes effective advantage of them, using Diana’s struggles to master the local dialect and accent, cope with strange clothing, and generally fit in as a way to paint the setting and advance the story.
  • Matthew and Diana have realistic problems, large and small, throughout the book.  In this second installment, the various types of creatures seem more balanced in terms of power and potential threat to the others than they did in A Discovery of Witches.  Creatures are under direct threat from humans during the “witch” burnings of the time, which puts the reluctance to intermingle displayed in the first book into better perspective.
  • Magic, oh yes, the magic system continues to be unveiled and is simply marvelous.  This alone is worth the price of Shadow of Night.
  • The relationships between family and friends are delightfully written, complex, and varied.  Sometimes, they are bittersweet – possibly inevitable in a time-travel novel – but they always ring true.

Weaknesses:

  •  The question of what happens to the 16th century version of Matthew when the 21st century version arrived was not satisfying.  Maybe I’ve been watching Dr. Who for too long, but this issue nagged at me periodically throughout Shadow of Night.

Summary:

Shadow of Night is easily as polarizing as the first book in the series, maybe more so.  There are vampires and yes, there is (somewhat steamy) romance, but I tended to forget all about that as I walked with Matthew and Diana as newly married people through Elizabethan England.  The historical details and expert handling of relationships kept me enthralled over a long weekend.  By the end, I felt that I knew Matthew and Diana – and I will miss them until the next volume arrives on the brown truck.

5 Stars

-Barb

 

 Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

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Comments

  1. I really need to get around to reading this series. I do at least have the first one just waiting to be read. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about these books so I’m glad you liked it!

  2. I really liked this series upon first reading it, but after time and a second look, I think that I was a bit generous in my first review. It’s not a bad series, exactly, but it does lack emotion a lot, and Matthew suffers from seriously unattractive alpha-male syndrome.

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