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Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness [book]

Since I loved the first book (and season 1 of the TV show), I jumped right into “Shadow of Night”, the second book in the “Discovery of Witches” series by Deborah Harkness. This one involved time travelling to Elizabethan London and a slew of new characters.

First of all, I have to give major props to the author, who is a historian, for providing us with a great story deeply rooted in history. In this book you will meet Elizabeth I of England (the queen), Christopher Marlowe (the playwright), Walter Raleigh (the explorer), Thomas Harriot (the astronomer) and yes, William Shakespeare (the writer), although not directly. You will also meet Mary Sidney (one of the first published female writers), Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and Erasmus. While reading this, I constantly had the need to pick up a textbook to keep up with the story and fully understand who she was referencing to. I knew of some of the them (Elizabeth, Raleigh, Shakespeare), but the others were a mystery and I am glad I met them, even if they were the fictionalized version.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to 1590 to track down the Ashmole manuscript and to find a witch who can help Diana figure out her powers. They accomplish their goals, but it takes a long time and they manage to change the course of history in some aspects. Still, I really enjoyed the book, mostly because of the characters.

I felt like “Shadow of the Night” was a book of discovery for the main characters. They figured out why they love each other, who they really are, what motivates them, and how they can actually be together forever. We got to know Matthew much better and understand, not only his past, but his relationships and his personality. For me, he is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read about, and a believable one, as well (as fiction allows it to be).

I also really liked the secondary characters, they were interesting and actually helped the plot and the main character’s development. Gallowglass has heartthrob potential, as I like to call it, and unfortunately I have just been spoiled for the last book whilst researching him, so I can tell you he has an even interesting part in the third book. Jack, Piere and Anne were loyal and loving and helped protect the couple. The few scenes we had with Elizabeth I were rich and funny. The only problem I had was with Thomas and George, who I can’t tell one from another, even now, after I finished the book. Harriot had an interesting ending, but I really can’t tell you anything about George.

Story-wise, it was interesting, but a bit too long, to be honest. It could have been shorter, but I think Harkness got sidetracked by her love for history. She is a great storyteller and writes beautifully, but I feel she is too rooted in her knowledge. You know how Ready, Player One had all those gaming references? I felt this was the same for history in “Shadow of Night”.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and it made me feel in love even more with the characters. That being said, I’m so happy we are going back to the present for Book 3 and I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

p.s. Want to know more about the series? Here’s my review of the first book, A Discovery of Witches (and season 1 of the TV show)

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