*Disclaimer – If you have not read A Discovery of Witches, then a few spoilers are contained in this post.*
Deborah Harkness has done it again – but this time, it was even better! Shadow of Night, the sequel to A Discovery of Witches, was worth all of the anticipation and excitement. Though I never reviewed A Discovery of Witches on my blog, I can tell you now that I read it as a recommendation from my Mom, who doesn’t typically dive into the fantasy realm. Sure, she read the Twilight series after all of the hype, but the thing I love about sharing book recommendations with my Mom is that we have different reading styles. I became hooked on the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich years ago thanks to my Mom. So when she recommended A Discovery of Witches, the title itself falling within my love of fantasy, I took it seriously – and I loved it.
There is something special about the way Deborah Harkness tells a story. These aren’t your typical romance/fantasy novels – they are intelligent, historical, and written with such attention to detail. I wish that all of the hype surrounding the silly and underwhelming Fifty Shades of Grey hysteria would redirect its attention to series like A Discovery of Witches. Where Shades fails, Witches succeeds. Based around history and alchemy, you learn so much while reading this series, yet the language remains interesting and fun. The characters are charming even in their flaws, and the romance is realistic and fresh. I can count a book as successful when my emotions stir thanks to a connection I’ve built with the characters, and this book does just that.
In Shadow of Night, our main characters, Diana and Matthew, successfully time-walk back to 1590 to hopefully retrieve the Ashmole 782 and for Diana to learn more about her craft. A scholar of Elizabethan history, Harkness’ portrayal of the 16th-century takes the reader from England to France to Prague. The rich tapestry of Elizabethan life is portrayed through her attention to detail (clothing and setting) and includes a list of new characters like Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I. Though the narrative is slightly lacking from time to time, including a slow introduction to the story, I was intrigued early-on and swept back into the tumultuous relationship between Diana, her vampire lover, Matthew, and his life in the past through her eyes. Even more so, Harkness successfully shifts back to the present 21st century from time-to-time to update the reader on how their dalliance in the past is affecting the future. My only criticism with this element was that an inclusion of the “present-day” date at the beginning of the chapter would have made the shift a bit more seamless.
All in all, I was enamored with Shadow of Night. This adult fantasy series has everything – intriguing characters, action, history, intelligence, and passionate romance. True to form, this sequel finishes with unanswered questions and building suspense, leaving me begging for the third instalment. Harkness is truly a story-telling historian and she can count me as a huge fan.