TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Book of the Summer” Edition

“Shadow of Night”~ Deborah Harkness

Book Description (From Amazon) :

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, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, 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.

Soundtrack:  “I Won’t Give Up”~ Jason Mraz

When we saw Deborah Harkness  at her author signing, she made a remarkable point. The first book in the All Souls Trilogy was about the ease with which Diana Bishop and Matthew fell in love, arguably the easiest part in most relationships. The second book is about their life together, and learning to stay in love, which is where the true magic lies.

Best Enjoyed With: Something rustic and primitive. A giant turkey leg and a stein of beer, perhaps.

A completely unexpected side effect of being in training is that – get this- the trainer actually ENCOURAGES us to read during the many breaks that we get during the day. With a training class of over 30 people, there are constantly questions and technical difficulties, so I’m suddenly finding myself getting a ridiculous amount of progress made on the books that I’ve chosen to bring. For example, I pounded out roughly 200 pages of Shadow of Night over the course of the day yesterday. Apparently my fears of losing my reading time were totally unfounded. (Thank Gawd!)

Also, there are FOUR girls in the group currently reading the Fifty Shades series. I can’t help but find it adorable.

I feel no reservation in proclaiming this the book of the summer- the anticipation for it was just huge after the ending of “A Discovery of Witches,” and if the turnout for Deborah Harkness’s book tour is any indication, women are craving something a little more sophisticated than Ana Steele to enjoy on their summer vacations. Sophisticated does not mean “less fun,” just “far better written” and “actual steamy sex.”

“Shadow” begins immediately after “A Discovery of Witches” ends, with the result of Diana and Matthew’s timewalk to the past. I loved how Deb Harkness set this up, with an enoromous wink and a *HINT HINT* toward their eventual destination, that had me finishing the book with a huge grin. Rather than feeling like a cliffhanger, it simply built enormous anticipation for the next volume in the trilogy, while still feeling oddly satisfying as a stand-alone novel.

I’m going to try to discuss this one as spoiler-free as possible, because while there are many out there that have finished it already, there are lots of you who are still eagerly awaiting getting your hands on a copy. Unfortunately, most of the book could be considered a spoiler for the ending of ADOW, so if you haven’t read that one please stop now. Otherwise don’t get pissy with me if I ruin your fun.

With the help the Bishop house and various and sundry creatures, Diana and Matthew have decided to timewalk to the past to guarantee their safety from the Congregation and to help Diana explore more of her magical powers. They’re also going to attempt to locate Ashmole 782 intact, before its secrets are disguised by whomever tore out some of the alchemical illustrations and before its donation to the Bodleian library.

One thing that Diana does not anticipate fully is the implications of being married to a vampire who has been around for hundreds of years. She has experienced present-day Matthew, but not Matthew in the context of the 16th century. From the moment they arrive in Elizabethan England, she is rubbing elbows with the members of the School of Night, including Christopher Marlowe (a demon) and Walter Raleigh. She’s also forced to contend with the many differences between modern society and the “normal” of the past. She immediately stands out with her height and her American accent, and it quickly becomes clear how much work she’s going to have to do just to blend in.

The other thing that they didn’t exactly take into account was that they were planning to arrive in a time where witch hunts were just beginning to heat up (pun intended) across the European continent.  It is not a safe time to be a witch, much less a witch with Diana’s unique capabilities.

The plot takes off right away, as Matthew is summoned to Sept-Tours by his father Phillipe. From that point on, the action slowed very little as we follow Matthew and Diana on their quest to track down Ashmole 782 and increase Diana’s knowledge of her talent. It’s evident that Deb Harkness is in her element writing about the time period that she studies, and took great pleasure in bringing her scenes to life. Once again the text was full of wonderful sensory allusions of smell and taste, coloring the reader’s impression even further. From the streets of Prague to Matthew’s lodge at Woodstock, the settings are rich and varied, and the cast of new characters introduced is fascinating. Her delight in populating the pages with historical figures shines through in each interaction. The depth and complexity of the plot is greatly satisfying, as the world that was introduced in the first book and the interesting caste system of the three supernatural races is embellished upon.  In this case, creating a mixture of historical fact and reference with the fictional world is very successful.

The reader learns a great deal more about Matthew’s role in the past and his motivations, for better or for worse. Much like Diana, we’re forced to see Matthew in a new light, deal with his imperfections and decide whether he’ll continue being the epitome of the perfect man. For the most part, he does not disappoint.

Once again, I’m left impatiently awaiting the next and final installment of the trilogy.

Four and a half Venison Pasties.


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