Review

Shadow of Night

by Deborah Harkness

In SHADOW OF NIGHT, we pick up with Diana Bishop, now Diana Clairmont, and her new husband Matthew in 1590 Elizabethan England. Having time walked back to 1590 to find a witch capable of understanding Diana’s magic and who can teach her how to control her powers, the two soon get caught up in 16th-century English politics and court intrigue. It’s a particularly fascinating place for Diana, being the scholar she is, but for Matthew the new setting brings on a fresh set of problems and emotions. Matthew, a vampire who once hunted down witches, has to reconcile his old role as witch hunter, which is more than difficult now that over 400 years later, he finds himself married to a witch. He also must come to some understanding with his father --- a man he knows as dead in his present.

"The middle book in a trilogy can sometimes feel like a placeholder, and while Diana and Matthew’s questions aren’t answered, their lives do move on, and I liked seeing their relationship change.... I’m now sitting and hoping that Deborah Harkness writes faster because I am anxious to know what happens to Diana and Matthew."

In only a few months, Diana and Matthew have to find Ashmole 782, the mysterious book that brought them together months ago in their present time at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Hoping it may still be intact in 1590, they’re both somewhat optimistic that Diana’s burgeoning powers can help them understand who they are, what they are, and what will happen to their families. All the while, they are dealing with Matthew’s past, well-known historical figures --- Queen Elizabeth I anyone? --- famous playwrights, witches, family drama, and weddings. Diana and Matthew have to figure out not only how to be married but also how to be a witch and vampire married to each other while looking for a book that they hope holds the answers to their future.

Matthew is still his controlling self --- he’s a vampire, though it’s still hard to ignore this annoying trait of his --- but Diana is finally beginning to understand what her witch heritage means and how to control her powers, thus she starts to stand her ground. Once reluctant to accept witchcraft, she finally begins using it and accepting it as part of who she is --- something her husband, a man who wants to control everything, struggles with as well. Their relationship becomes more of a partnership in SHADOW OF NIGHT. These two obviously have picked a strange road to follow and one that many don’t see ending happily. I felt this second book in the All Souls trilogy (following A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES) had a bit less mystery for me but a lot more intrigue. I enjoyed the numerous strange characters who appeared, and we finally get a look at Matthew’s past. Meeting his family and friends explains his sometimes irrational mood swings and what both he and Diana will be facing in their life together.

I am a series reader and am happy to say that SHADOW OF NIGHT kept up with A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. The middle book in a trilogy can sometimes feel like a placeholder, and while Diana and Matthew’s questions aren’t answered, their lives do move on, and I liked seeing their relationship change. They both wonder about their intrusions on the past and how their actions will alter their future and the past. Diana finally accepts witchcraft as part of who she is, but there are few precious hints at what it will hold for her future self. Matthew’s history hits him full on in 1590, and Diana understands for the first time why her husband falls into such dark places.

In short, time walking, famous dead people, more vampires, witches and daemons, and lots of magic shape SHADOW OF NIGHT. And yes, I’m now sitting and hoping that Deborah Harkness writes faster because I am anxious to know what happens to Diana and Matthew.

Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on July 12, 2012

Shadow of Night
by Deborah Harkness