Headline Books, p/b, £13.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
The eagerly awaited sequel to the 2011 bestselling novel A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night continues the story of the witch Diana Bishop and her vampire husband, Matthew Clairmont. Their marriage is forbidden by the Congregation – a shadowy parliament of vampires, witches and daemons who exist in an uneasy truce; united only by their hatred of each other and fear of inter-species unions.
Beginning in 1590, this follows Diana and Matthew’s adventures in Elizabethan England after using Diana’s new found magic to travel back in time from the 21st century. Diana continues her search for an elusive alchemical manuscript and tuition on how to use her powers, while Matthew finds himself embroiled in the political machinations ofElizabeth’s court and the Scottish witch hunts.
The book is filled with fantastically realised characters – both fictional and historical, including William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Queen Elizabeth (the first). Harkness’ passion for both history and London shine through her wonderfully scripted prose. Reading the book, one could almost imagine oneself wandering the streets of Elizabethan London, fully immersed in the sights, sounds and smells so richly described. Diana’s new adventures in alchemy and witchcraft under the capable tuition of local witches and a rare female alchemist are both fascinating and emotive.
As with the first book, comparisons to Twilight from previous reviewers do it no justice, and will only serve to alienate a large potential fan base. This is truly a gem of a book that deserves to stand on its own.