Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (@DebHarkness)

Diana Bishop. Historian. Witch. Timewalker. In love with a vampire. Slowly coming unbound, her powers having been locked away inside of her. Her vampire — because what else is he but hers? — is convinced that she is more powerful than she believes she can be.

Matthew Clairmont. Geneticist. Vampire (old, doesn’t sparkle in the sun). Storied. In love with a witch. Realizing that perfect happiness is not as easy as wishing it into existence. And his witch — because what else is she but his? — is not going to make anything easy for him.

A romance that shouldn’t be; a love that can’t be denied. And a story that spans centuries.

If you thought that Discovery of Witches, the runaway bestseller by Deborah Harkness, was enchanting, be prepared for a whole other level of wooing as we are swept into Elizabethan London, a time period in which Matthew and his infamous School of Night held court and swayed queens. Diana needs to learn magic; Matthew needs to keep her identity a secret. All while on honeymoon, since their marriage–however hasty and unplanned–took place just before (or some 500 years after, depending) their backward timewalk.

A central idea in Shadow is alchemy, and transformation, and transmutation. Diana and Matthew are changed, and continue to change, and around them history has shown that the Old World is also changing. Wars to be waged. Bargains to be made. Worlds to conquer. And conquer this world Harkness does.

As much as Discovery is about mothers, motherhood, and the matriarchal lines of Diana and Matthew, Shadow is about fathers, not just those of Diana and Matthew, but those of modern science and astronomy and literature and even magic, as we spend time with witches who spell with elements and witches who are burned alive and witches who want nothing more than to control Diana, because with her comes more information about Ashmole 782, the ancient manuscript at the heart of the All Souls Trilogy.

Harkness, a professor of history at the University of Southern California, shows off here (deservedly so), bringing to life not just a period of time but also its residents, including Christopher Marlowe (a daemon–a third magical creature–which you’d probably guess given his biography); Thomas Harriot (another daemon), Henry Percy (the Earl of Northumberland), Sir Walter Raleigh (Roanoke anyone?), and Mary Sidney (Countess of Pembroke, and alchemist). Real, all of them, just waiting for their shared secret history to be told.

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