Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

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 realize 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...

Where to Buy

I was a bit worried going into this one as I'd seen various reviews that voiced themselves as dissatisfied with this volume, that they felt it wasn't as good as the first. Having read it, I have to respectfully disagree with them for I found this book to be everything I'd hoped it would be and more. The romance between Diana and Matthew is definitely much more at the forefront in this book, and there are some (not very graphic) sexy times between them, so for those who don't care for such things I can see where they'd be disappointed, but I found the deepening of their relationship just added to things. Add to that the vivid descriptions of historical life and locations and the gradual revelations and broader hints about what is really going on with not just Ashmole 782 but the events they find themselves caught up in, and I found this book to be quite fascinating.

Diana and Matthew both undergo significant character growth in this book which could probably go without saying, but the difference in Matthew in particular by the end truly is remarkable. It's a series of compromises on both their parts to make things work between them, and I don't think either one really realized just how much they would have to bend or just how many hangups were standing in their way when they started out on their journey. It's clear pretty much form the beginning that their task won't be as simple as they thought it would be, but neither could have predicted just where exactly it would take them, both in terms of locations and in terms of their personal and collective growth and soul searching. The journey is perilous in many ways, but they manage to navigate it with reasonable success, though certainly not without gaining a few more literal and figurative scars along the way.

Woven throughout Diana and Matthew's story is, of course, the larger story of what is happening in the world in general and in the world of creatures in particular. Most of this remains a mystery to which we are only given hints, some barest glimmers and others broader and less cryptic. The author is clearly building a very complex picture here, and I at least was fascinated in watching as more and more pieces were revealed, even when we only got a half-seen glimpse of it. It's not at all clear yet how some of the pieces fit into the larger picture and it's intriguing trying to figure out how they'll end up fitting in. With only one book to go, I can't help wondering if the whole picture will eventually be revealed  or if parts of it, whether large or small, will remain shrouded in mystery until the end. The only thing that's clear is that dark times are ahead for all involved and things will much likely get worse before they get better.

There are of course many other characters involved here besides Diana and Matthew, and some of them will clearly be of great importance in how things eventually play out. There were times that I wished we were given more information about what was going on with some of the other characters in the modern day, but we are only given glimpses of them along the way as the focus remains primarily on Diana and Matthew and their experiences in the past as they search for answers. These brief glimpses prove particularly maddening in at least one case as something fairly major happens with one of the others yet we're only given a relatively offhand reference to it after the fact. I can only hope that we'll learn more of what happened in the next book for it's frankly quite frustrating to be told it happened by not how or why or when.

Overall this is still definitely a book and series I would recommend, particularly if you like intellectual puzzles and things paranormal and mystical. I'm definitely interested to see how this all will end and can only hope I won't be disappointed. Somehow I don't think I will be.

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