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 rating: 5 of 5 stars
So let me get this out of the way in the beginning of this review: I could not put this book down! Oh my goodness, this 592 page book was so worth it! I have been waiting since February 2011 when I read the first book to get to this book. Unfortunately, I’m sure I’ll have to wait a whole year and a half before I get the next one L.
Now to the actual review.
Now to the actual review.
So this book picks up where it left off (or is it puts down where it picked up?). Landing in 1590 England of course is going to be strange, but as excited as Diana is, she has no clue what she is in for. And that is what I loved about this book. We all think that we could go back in time and survive and remain unnoticed, but in reality, we would all stick out like a sore thumb (which is exactly what Diana does). I think that Diana sums it up best: “Living in the past had always been my secret desire, but it was far more difficult than I’d imagined.”
Matthew… What can I say? He is the perfect, imperfect man of every woman’s dreams. He is moody, broody, and you can’t help but want to help him, make him feel complete, make him happy. He is struggling through the time they are in the past because he already knows what is going to happen. In some ways, I think this makes it a bigger struggle for him, because he wants to change the past for the good of people he didn’t realize were so important. We actually get to know Matthew more in this book, which is great! There is so much development. As a spy, his secrets keep getting exposed; as a member of the congregation, choices must be made.
Also, Matthew has forgotten some things from his past, which are creating new problems for them to deal with. Plus to make matters worse, most of the plans are not working the way that he wants them.
My heart broke several times for both Diana and Matthew, both for different reasons. I can’t go into it too much without giving away a plot, but let’s just say that the struggles that they face as a couple were hard enough, without the stress of being in the past. I think that these heartbreaking moments just reiterate the humanity of the characters, whether they are human or creatures.
I loved Phillipe. He is an amazing character, and it breaks my heart that we know he is deceased in the present day. He is a planner/schemer, and he does keep things interesting while Diana and Matthew are at Sept Tour. I love how in the end, he completely approves of Diana and Matthew, and how he starts setting up the future for her.
I love all the new characters you get to meet in this book! Gallowglass (a sure fire favorite of mine), the different witches in the Elizabethan gathering, plus Annie and Jack are all great characters that help connect you to the past and the present.
I must say I love how Ms. Harkness wrote about the past, making it so believable and relatable. Also, I enjoyed how she didn’t make it so much of a butterfly effect with Diana and Matthew in the past. Yes, there were changes to the present due to their being in the past, but it was nothing to a huge extent like making America still part of the British colonies or prevented deaths that had originally occurred. I thought it was great how Ms. Harkness even occasionally would throw in a chapter from the present to mix in with the chapters from the past.
Finally, my favorite part was meeting all the historical figures in this book. From Queen Elizabeth I to Christopher Marlowe to Shakespeare, you can’t help but envy Diana from meeting them. You learn that the historical figures you think that you admire, love, or despise aren’t quite who you think they are.