Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: "Shadow of Night"

The second volume in Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night (Viking, 2012) is, I'm very pleased to be able to report, just as much fun to read as its predecessor, A Discovery of Witches (my review here).

Most of the action this time around takes place in 1590, where/when witch Diana Bishop and vampire Matthew Clairmont have traveled in an attempt to understand the mysterious manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Harkness' background as a historian works wonderfully for this, and since Bishop also happens to be a historian, it makes for a very enjoyable kind of meta-exploration of the historian's craft. Short, present-day interludes are used to explore the shifts in history that might happen should some time-traveling actually be possible.

Delightfully, books and manuscripts remain a major part of the story, as we get to visit John Dee's library, the rollicking world of St. Paul's Churchyard, and the court of Rudolf II. Kit Marlowe and William Shakeaspeare make appearances, and a certain famously mysterious manuscript whose name begins with V and ends in -oynich even has a cameo role in the narrative. Along with books, we get to delve into the fascinating world of alchemy as it was, plus the heady political times of late Elizabethan England.

Harkness' good writing, deep knowledge of the period, and her willingness to be playful and enjoy herself as she tells her story make this a great read. Once again I find myself impatiently awaiting the next volume!

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