Book Review – Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, Book Two in the All Souls Trilogy, picks up where we left Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont in A Discovery of Witches (book review here) as they travel into the past to uncover the secrets of Diana’s magic and find a book that could change everything.

Diana and Matthew land right in the middle of Elizabethan London and immediately realize their tasks – teaching Diana to control her magic and finding Ashmole 782 – are going to be more complicated than they originally thought. The reader has the pleasure of experiencing the city (along with the other places they visit) through the eyes of Diana, a historian, who has studied and dreamed about the places she is visiting and people she is meeting her entire life . 

It’s like a fairytale, especially if you consider how dark and terrible most fairy tales really are. 

I absolutely LOVED A Discovery of Witches, so I had high expectations going into this novel. It did not disappoint. While it wasn’t as magical (sorry for the pun) as the first novel, I really enjoyed Book Two. 

We already have a witch and a vampire, throw in the pomp and circumstance of the 16th century and it’s the perfect mix for a wonderful story. 

One element I really enjoyed was Diana’s constant reckoning of what history books had taught her and what the real experience was like. For example, she notes she always told her students London would smell vile, but in reality it’s a pleasant smell (at least where they are in the city). 

Throughout the book we do have little flashes to the present time, but they are short and not too distracting from the main plot. We see how Diana and Matthew are tweaking the events of the present and how their family, friends, and even enemies are taking notice. 

And of course, there’s romance. We didn’t get much more than tension building in Book One, so thankfully we find a little release in Book Two as the couple spends more time together and begin knocking down all of the secrets and walls creating a division between them. By the time they arrive back in the present, they are a newer and stronger couple. I can’t wait to see where they go in Book Three. 

If I had to try and pinpoint why this novel didn’t quite sing to me like Book One, I think it would be the feeling that the characters are spinning their wheels and making no progress for a portion of the novel. I enjoyed the stories and adventures, but I often found myself frustrated Diana and Matthew weren’t more focused on the tasks at hand. 

This novel is a perfect cocktail of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, and “save the world”-ness. In my opinion, it’s one of the best “adult” fantasy books for those of us who grew up with Jane Austin, Harry Potter, and Twilight. 

Now … onto The Book of Life, Book Three in the All Souls Trilogy. Stay tuned for the review in the coming weeks.

Have you read the All Souls Trilogy and want to discuss? Leave a note in the comments here or on Instragram. 

Buy the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness here at Kramers Bookstore (Washington, DC) or at your local bookstore!

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