Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

What happens when you throw a modern female historian into 16th century England - does she know as much as she thinks? Can she cope? That's just what happens in this installment of the search for the rare alchemical book Ashmole 782.

Second in the All Souls Trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches, this novel continues both the love story and the epic quest of historian witch Diana Bishop and her scientist vampire Matthew Clairemont. And while I devoured the first book in practically a single sitting, this one I enjoyed in audiobook format, spread over 24 hours and several weeks in the car. (This audio version read by Jennifer Ikeda is outstanding.)

Diana and Matthew mission in the time travel is twofold: study up on Diana's previously untapped powers of witchcraft, and attempt to lay hands on the Ashmole manuscript before it's torn apart. They slip into Matthew's own actual past, which creates some new challenges - since he was at that time a sworn enemy of witches but suddenly not only consorts with one but marries her.

These arrangements allows Diana a unique peek into Matthew's past, as she gets to meet long-dead friends, enemies, and family, but she also gains a deeper understanding for a long-lifed vampire's very necessary half-truths, constant goodbyes, and ever-shifting personas.

This book's a bit of a whimsy - a historical story stuck in the middle of a contemporary series. And it's fun to read; the fish-out-of-water element of dealing with a patriarchal, monarchical society puts Diana on unsure footing from the start.

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