The second in the All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness is a great follow-up from A Discovery of Witches. It picks up where the first book finished, with Matthew and Diana travelling back to Elizabethan London in search for the alchemical manuscript Ashmole 782 but they’re also in search of a teacher for Diana’s growing powers.
Along the way, the pair face many obstacles including the fact that they can’t tamper with the past; an exceedingly difficult feat for Matthew as his views and actions regarding witches is entirely different to that of the 1591 version of Matthew. Diana faces challenges in her relationship as the dynamic is somewhat changed to reflect the time period they are in, but she’s also having difficulty controlling her magic which is completely haywire and unruly.
This book is split into six parts being set in different locations like Blackfriars London, Prague, Sept-Tours, Woodstock, and then the present time again. I must admit, I found the first section really frustrating. Matthew infuriated me so much until mid-way through Sept-Tours (no spoilers). It weren’t until after a more pivotal point in the book that I felt more invested in the plot-line of the book. Having said this, I think this added a lot more depth to the story and the dynamic between the couple that, while it was irritating to read was necessary in developing the bonds between characters.
***Beware: Spoilers Ahead***
The most terrifying monsters always look just like ordinary menp. 490
The characters in this book was so great. Being Elizabethan times, there’s figures such as Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, Elizabeth I and even William Shakespeare. Being an English literature graduate, it was quite amusing to read the voices that Harkness had given them; especially Marlowe. I absolutely loved meeting the characters we readers hadn’t met before such as Philippe -I wish we got to see more of him. It was also amazing to have Diana’s father Stephen appear in the streets of London. That was such a great twist to the story and one that added so much detail for me. I think my favourite character from this book (and one I can’t wait to see if they’re in the next book also) was Gallowglass. Matthews ‘nephew’, ugh he was such a strong and loveable figure; I really love him. I also really enjoy the idea that Gallowglass would’ve met Diana in Elizabethan times and then had to keep away from her in present day or keep his composure if he had seen him, as she wouldn’t have known who he was.
The brief windows into seeing Ysabeau with Sarah, and seeing how their interactions played out; going from iciness between of the witch/vampire worlds colliding into gradually trusting one another and then leaning on another through hardship was really beautiful. Harkness is the master of character development. Whilst on the subject of Ysabeau, I also love how her and Philippe leave one another notes and signs; especially Philippe leaving messages for her throughout Sept-Tours. The yearning you see in Ysabeau, manically searching for a sign from him shows a whole other side of her that you don’t get to see in the first book.
Overall, I loved this book. Of course it is long just like A Discovery of Witches and you could say it could do with shortening but I think that’s part of Harkness’ storytelling. You need those moments of respite to take in everything that has happened to that point; especially when there’s a bigger collection of characters to the tale.
I already have the third book, The Book of Life ready to get into so stay tuned for that. I’m currently trying to finish up two other books so it won’t be long until I can delve back into Diana and Matthews story. Have you ever read Shadow of Night? What did you think? Let me know!
Cheerio for now!