Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy 2) by Deborah Harkness

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Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy 2) by Deborah Harkness

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Mystery, excitement, romance with thrilling twists and a big dose of intelligence; Deborah Harkness has done it again with the added bonus of a new take on 16th century society. It can be read as a standalone, but you'd miss so much if you didn't read A Discovery of Witches' first.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 592 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Headline
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0755384730

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Shadow of Night moves on from where A Discovery of Witches finishes. Matthew Claremont (vampire, intellectual and, even after centuries of life, still looking a pretty decent 37 years old) and Diana Bishop (historian and witch with a pedigree stretching back to the Salem witch trials) are married and have time-walked to 1591 to look for Ashmole 782, the ancient book that Diana let slip through her fingers in 2010. They also need to find Diana a tutor to help her control the powers that she's chosen to ignore for a lifetime. There aren't just supernatural items on the agenda though; Diana thought she knew all there was to know about her new spouse but there are secrets to be discovered, his connection to the historic 'School of the Night' being one of the less dangerous. Oh, and another thing, they discover that the 16th century isn't, perhaps, the best time to visit if you're a witch, especially if you need to advertise for a tutor. (I think we could have told them that if they'd asked!)

This, the second in Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy is a worthy sequel to her block buster from last year. The author shares the same day job as her heroine (historian, not witch) and it shows. For Deborah Harkness writes as if she's the hugely more talented love child of Diana Gabaldon and JK Rowling. (There are indeed biological problems with that statement, but you know what I mean!) There are elements of both in theme but it's not a copy and there's an added reader-orientated reward: the All Souls Trilogy is a lot better written and more intricately researched.

Throughout the novel, as our loved-up couple travel across Europe, Diana begins to realise that 40 days (the time span of Discovery of Witches) may not have been long enough to have seen all Matthew's little quirks. As with all couples this leads to 'domestics' but, as not with all couples, the subject matter differs. They have a mixed marriage (vampire and 'warm blood') with mixed loyalties that love will struggle to conquer and it will have a tougher time still conquering the prejudices and regulations laid down by their own kinds. (Yes, the Congregation exists back in 1591 too.) Sometimes the enemies from within a creature's world can be more powerful and unreasonable than those in a human's.

The history is painstakingly compiled to ensure that we receive the full historical emersion experience. The 16th century is a fascinating era and Matthew is the ideal tour guide as he's lived through it. In fact, his membership of 'The School of the Night' is a masterly stroke. Originally called 'The School of Atheism', this gathering of minds was rumoured to have included such scientific and artistic luminaries as Sir Walter Raleigh, astronomer Thomas Harriot, writer Christopher Marlowe and dramatist/poet George Chapman. There's no hard proof that they all knew each other but over the centuries informed guesses have been made from little contemporary snippets. Deborah Harkness takes it one step further and, not only puts them together complete with their own conflicting personalities, but ascribes creaturedom to some of them, making, for instance, Christopher Marlowe a very passable daemon. Talking about contemporaries, the cast list at the back distinguishing the fictional from factual is a welcome and fascinating.

Shadow of Night, named from a mixture of the 'School' and Elizabeth I's nick name for Matthew (yes, she's there too) has moments of resonance with the first book. In Discovery Knox is the sort of person you wouldn't want to be around if you didn't have to. In Shadow the sinister 16th century witch gangland godfather Father Hubbard takes up the mantle. In Discovery Diana has a face-off with Matthew's mother, Ysabeau and in Shadow she has Matthew's father, Phillipe, to contend with; a meeting equally difficult for Matthew knowing how and when his father dies.

Indeed, Deborah Harkness paints her pages with emotional contrast. I not only found myself blubbing (no spoilers!), but also feeling Diana's anxiety and even, at times, giggling out loud. There are some wonderful Harknessisms augmenting the history that really make sense, like Diana's desperate attempt at spelling the 1591 way: adding an extra consonant and putting an 'e' on the end.

Shadow of Night will perform three functions. Firstly it will keep you blissfully occupied in such a way that 592 pages will seem way too short. Secondly it will answer a lot of loose ends from Discovery and finally it will ensure that you eagerly await All Souls Trilogy 3 as there are some subtle threads in Shadow that are just waiting to be developed. Also, speaking of having to wait, Warner Brothers have movie options on the trilogy. We just need to be patient; hard isn't it?

I would like to thank Headline for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this and want to read more about the background of the Salem witch trials then we recommend The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent.

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