Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)
My rating: Fantasy
by Deborah Harkness
Shadow of Night follows immediately after the events of A Discovery of Witches, and sees Diana and Matthew walking through time to try and find an alchemical manuscript - and a magical tutor for Diana.
A Discovery of Witches was one of those books that I loved so much I struggled to imagine any sequel doing it justice - especially a sequel that left the present-day behind and sent our protagonists into the sixteenth century. And yet so many threads were left hanging, that I was desperate to read this book. It helps that as a vampire, Matthew had already lived through the period they travel to, and has his own well-established retinue there. Diana's struggles to adjust to the period also added a lot to my enjoyment of the setting, and allowed for little oddities of behaviour to be highlighted in a way that felt completely natural.
I'm not generally a fan of seeing historical characters cast into fantasy roles, but although Matthew's Elizabethan circle is packed with famous figures (including the queen herself), for once I didn't feel that this detracted from the story. Not even when some of these historical persons were reimagined as powerful vampires and unpredictable demons.
The romance between Matthew and Diana continues to evolve, too. The fact that they married at the end of the previous book might have marked a turning point in their relationship, but in fact they have many more hurdles to cross together. It's refreshing to read a grown-up romance in which both parties have a good amount of life experience (several lives' worth, in Matthew's case) and know exactly what they want; of course, that doesn't mean they'll always get it. It doesn't help that vampires and witches aren't supposed to associate with one another - and even something as simple as going about town together draws unwanted attention from all quarters.
Overall, I really loved this book, and have high hopes for the third in the series. Although the sixteenth century provided its own share of problems and bumps in the road, it's the return to the present day that's really going to push our heroes to their limits - and I can't wait to see how the story is resolved.