Jul 1 2012 1:00pm

First Look: Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night (July 10, 2012)

Shadow of Night by Deborah HarknessDeborah Harkness
Shadow of Night
Viking / July 10, 2012 / $28.95 print, $14.99 digital

Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

In the first book of the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkess introduces us to Diane Bishop, historian and witch, Matthew Clairmont, scientist and vampire, and we watched the romance grow between Diana and Matthew, a romance which is forbidden by a centuries-old covenant. There’s also a growing contingent of creatures, including demons, vampires and witches, who will work together, if necessary, to force Diana to reclaim the manuscript dubbed Ashmole 782 from the archives. As the danger to Diana grows, Matthew and Diana devise a plan to thwart those who want to use the manuscript for darker purposes.

Shadow of Night follows Matthew and Diana in their endeavor to discover the secrets of Ashmole 782. Their plan is simple: Timewalk back to 1591; find Ashmole 782 before it becomes bespelled; and find Diana a tutor to help her control her magic. In and out. No problems. Hmmm. Sadly, Matthew and Diana have laid out the plans to achieve their goals without working out the small details of time travel.

Matthew, being a 1,500 year old vampire, is welcomed back by his friends at the Old Lodge and quickly acclimates to his past life, but our modern day heroine sticks out like the only warmblood at the a vampire ball. It is not just her modern day feminist views, or being an educated woman or speaking her mind. Everything about Diana stands out and screams, “I’m not from around here,” from her mannerisms to her accent and speech patterns. She will need more than just new clothes in order to move around Elizabethan England.

“The book can wait,” I said. “First I need proper clothes. I can’t go out of the house Pierre’s jacket and the skirt that Matthew’s sister wore to Jane Seymour’s funeral.”

“Go out of the house?” Kit scoffed. “Utter lunacy.”

“Kit is right,” George said apologetically. He made a notation in his book. “Your speech makes it apparent you are a stranger to England. I would be happy to give you elocution lessons, Mistress Royden.” The idea of George Chapman playing Henry Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle was enough to make me look longingly at the exit.

“She shouldn’t be allowed to speak at all, Matt. You must keep her quiet,” Kit insisted.

“What we need is a woman, someone to advise Diana. Why is there not one daughter, wife or mistress to be had among the five of you?” Matthew demanded.

More importantly, the dangers to Matthew and Diana don’t decrease by leaving their own time period—just the names of their enemies change. Their relationship is no more acceptable in 1591 as it was in 2010. The covenant still exists against the fraternizing of creatures, and a vampire and witch going about Town together draws unwanted eyes. With every creature in 1591 London whispering about the strange witch with Matthew de Clarmont, it won’t be long before the Congregation locates them. And it’s not just the Congregation that will be seeking them out; the witches have felt the arrival of the latent power that Diana holds within her, and the vampires and demons are watching too. Matthew and Diana are quickly accumulating some powerful enemies in the past.

There was a blur of motion as blunt, powerful fingers took my chin and jerked my head to the side. In the same instant, Matthew’s hand wrapped around the vampire’s wrist.

Hubbard’s cold glance touched my neck, taking in the scar there.

“We have a problem, Master Roydon,” said Hubbard.

“We have several, Father Hubbard. The first is that you have your hands on something that belongs to me. If you don’t remove them, I’ll tear this den to pieces before sunrise. What happens afterward will make every creature in the city—daemon, human, wearh and witch—think the end of days is upon us.” Matthew’s voice vibrated with fury.

Hubbard held my chin for a few moments longer, pulling my head back until I faced him once more. My anger at Kit and the witch who had betrayed us must have shown, and he shook his head in warning.

“May I remind you, Monsieur de Clermont, you have here under my sufferance.” Hubbard sat in the chamber’s grand, solitary chair. “But you have flouted our customs and allowed your wife to enter the city without introducing her to me and to my flock.”

They have also forgotten that in 1591 witch trials in Scotland are increasing and with more and more witches being persecuted and burned at the stake, the witches throughout Europe are increasingly fearful of openly discussing their magic and are not only weary of Diana who is a stranger with powerful magic, but of Matthew, who is a dangerous and powerful vampire in this time period. It quickly becomes clear to them that their plan to find a witch to help teach Diana to control her magic will not be so simple a feat to accomplish.

“I am alone, a witch like you, without family to help me,” I said, trying to appeal to her sympathy. “Take pity on me before anyone else discovers what I am.”

“You are not like me, and I want no trouble. None will give me pity when the village is baying for blood. I have no wearh to protect me and no lords and court gentlemen will step forward to defend my honor.”

“This matter is between us, Widow Beaton,” I warned.

“Where are you from, girl, that you believe one witch will shelter another? It is a dangerous world. None of us are safe any longer.” The old woman looked at Matthew with hatred. “Witches are dying in the thousands, and the cowards of the Congregation do nothing. Why is that, wearh?”

Finally, it is not just those outside of their lives that a cause for concern. When you are a 1,500 year old vampire, there are many secrets that you believe you have left buried in the past and taking a trip to that past brings them all to life for your new wife.

So remember next time you plan your Timewalk vacation into the past—you will need to plan for more than just a proper change of clothing, or else you’ll find that the past will come looking for you.


Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.

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