Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches.
The second installment of the All Souls Trilogy is as dense as it is enjoyable. Harkness does a beautiful job maintaining the plot while spinning an ever increasingly involved story. Much like Diana Gabaldon who pens the Outlander series, Harkness is not one to rush. Instead, she remains constant, creating a world that is rich and brimming with life. And, like Gabaldon, Harkness is a published academic, which shows in the quality of the work. The word choice alone is food for the reader's soul.
In Shadow of the Night, Diana and Matthew must seek shelter in 1590 to escape the creatures who want them dead in the present. The goal of the trip is not just to preserve their lives, but to find a witch willing to teach Diana how to better control her roiling witchy powers, and procure the Secret of Secrets, Ashmole 782.
Diana and Matthew naively believe that they will be in the past less than a month, which is their first problem. Diana, like most historians has always dreamed of living in the past and therefore thought she would simply slip into the past. Unfortunately, her accent and manner of speech is so foreign, it takes longer than a month just to be able to present her in public.
The relationship between Diana and Matthew is at the heart of this constantly shifting novel, whose overarching theme of tolerance and change is challenged from beginning to end. It is their marriage that beings a new day for all creatures, but change doesn't come without sacrifice. It is then appropriate that Diana and Matthew learn to be one during the
Renaissance when science and learning were thriving, and change is expected and welcomed.
Readers might find the opening of Shadow of Night difficult, as Harkness jumps right into the story adding new characters left and right. Likewise there are some parts of the story that lag. Despite these small weaknesses, Shadow of Night is a beautifully crafted story that will leave the reader bleary with tears, but satisfied.
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