If you like: time travel * vampires and witches * historical fiction
Shadow of Night is the sequel to Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. (You can discover my review here.) Diana and Matthew have successfully traveled back to 1590 in order to develop Diana’s craft and to find out more about the enigmatic Ashmole 782. Along the way they encounter many of Matthew’s friends from the time, and tangle with royalty throughout Europe. Finding a witch to educate Diana proves to be a significant challenge, since their arrival coincides with a developing fervor to out and burn witches.
Shadow of Night was the book I was most looking forward to in 2012, and, while I loved it, I found many aspects to be aggravating. One key issue, which Diana herself acknowledges in the story, is the role of women in the time period. I loved Diana’s strong independence in Witches, but in 1590 she is entirely reliant on Matthew for just about everything. This changes the dynamic of their relationship, and diminishes what made this series stand out from the rest of the genre. Additionally, as the book progresses, plot developments seem to occur outside the scope of the novel. Instead of realizing facts or circumstances along with the characters, the most common experience is a knowing glance between two characters and an explanation to the reader that almost seems like an afterthought. Rather than creating an air of mystery or drama, it leaves the reader to feel left out and alone.
The bond between the past and future is strong in Shadow of Night. Harkness wisely provides brief glimpses into the events of the current day. We see Diana and Matthew’s loved ones painstakingly search for changes and clues to how the events of the past continue. Though present day Matthew interacts with his contemporaries much differently than he did in the past, these changes do not seem to have lasting consequences. The hidden relics that Diana and Matthew leave behind do provide their families with hope, and an opportunity for their enemies to discover their location. Diana’s education from the local gathering of witches is a highlight of the story. Her abilities are transformed from random flukes to artfully crafted executions. Witchcraft and magic have evolved over time, leaving Diana to bridge their differences and help her people evolve. Many of the questions regarding the origin of creatures have yet to be answered, but the promise of resolution is strong. Now that Diana and Matthew have returned to the present, we can hope that the conclusion of the All Souls Trilogy will return to the strength of its predecessor.
If you feel the strands of time pulling you to a different era, read Shadow of Night.
Harkness, Deborah. Shadow of Night: A Novel. New York, Viking, 2012. Kindle Edition.