BOOK TITLE: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)
AUTHOR: Deborah Harkness
While vacationing in Italy I decided to wander through one of Bologna’s libraries in the search of a new book to add to my still-in-the-making book collection. That’s when, after browsing a little through the English shelf, I found the second volume of the All Souls Trilogy. I had already added it to my Goodreads to-read list so I decided on the spot to buy it and once arriving back home I took the time to actually read it. And I must start by saying that this second book of the series was a pleasant surprise; not often do I find a series which improves itself in the making (and of course, spoiler alert!)
“Memories were short and history unkind. It was the way of the world.”
The book starts in an alert manner with Diana and Matthew arriving at the Old Lodge, year 1590. There Diana become acquainted with some of Matthew’s friends, which surprisingly are Christopher Marlowe (Kit), George Chapman, Thomas Harriot and Sir Walter Raleigh – a group also known as the School of the Night; and also Pierre and Francoise, both vampires and servants of Matthew. She is baffled by her husband’s companionship (which also includes Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland). Even from the beginning Kit displays a weird affection towards Matthew and is jealous when Matthew announces that Diana is his wife. One of the priorities is finding a witch who can help Diana control her powers, powers that seem to be ever-changing, but when they try to do so by bringing one of the witches from the nearby village, Widow Beaton, things don’t turn out quite right.
Matters become more complicated as more vampires arise in search for Matthew, Gallowglass – his nephew – and Hancock (Davy Gam) and also announce him that Diana has been accused of witchcraft by Widow Beaton and some men from the village will inquire the matter. As if that wasn’t enough, Matthew also receives a letter from Philippe de Clermont, his father, summoning him to at Sept-Tours in order to prove that he is not dead as Philippe has been led to believe. Matthew has no choice but to respect his father’s wishes and together with Diana they head to Sept-Tours. Needless to say, Diana is not happy and is having troubles getting used to the customs, clothing and speech of 1590 England.
Their time at Sept-Tours is full of ups and downs. At first Philippe refuses to acknowledge Matthew’s and Diana’s marriage (not only because he is a vampire and she is a witch and their marriage is forbidden, but also because their marriage hasn’t been consummated), but after putting their love to the test he acknowledges Diana as Matthew’s real wife.
Unfortunately their stay at Sept-Tours is not long, as they must depart again, this time to London, where again on orders of Queen Elizabeth they are to go to Prague, at the court of Rudolf II, where alchemist Edward Kelley also resides. They have reasons to believe that Kelley is in possession of Ashmole 782, that making them more driven to head to Prague. Before departing they finally manage to find a witch who can help Diana with her powers, Goody Alsop is her name, and she turns out to be a weaver (I will let you discover by yourself what that means).
“Magic was nothing more than desire made real”
A whole story unfolds, full of unexpected events which ultimately lead to their coming back to London and then time traveling to the future where already small bits have been modified, bits that to those looking could reveal their presence in the past.
And now, to the personal opinions. I believe the book as a whole was a great success and an improvement compared to the first one. The characters were developed much more and they didn’t feel flat at all. At the beginning Matthew has a very different attitude towards Diana that the attitude he had in the present time which I think shapes nicely how much Matthew has changed and evolved since 1590 (in 1590 he tries to control her in front of his friends and sometimes impose himself as he believes he can make better choices than her). This attitude obviously leads to some tension between the two and their relationship changes which makes it even more real and raw and they slowly learn how to actually live with each other and function as a couple.
Moving to Philippe’s character, I think he is most intriguing and I didn’t know what to make of him at first (like him, hate him?). He is stronger than Matthew and always claims that Matthew is feeling guilty about something and carrying that guilt with him forever and also instills more subordination than Matthew, but at the same time he doesn’t seem to be a tyrant, he actually tries to keep a balance and do what feels right. He goes from scary to friendly and wise in a matter of pages, so he kind of remains a mystery.
The relationship between Matthew and Philippe is full of tension at first, but Philippe manages to make his son stop feeling guilty about things of the past (or present).
I really appreciated the fact that the book was not even once boring; there was always something coming up and there weren’t any unnecessary details to spoil the fun. The relationship between the main characters was not overly romanticized and actually felt like love (human love?) and even if the whole book revolves around those two they didn’t steal the thunder of other characters or of the action itself which is the big picture – the whole decline of the supernatural species and the fact that from daemon parents witches were born or that there is some possible mix-up between the species in order to repopulate the Earth with supernatural creatures.
The explanation for the time travel was also great – supposedly the 1590 Matthew disappeared when the present Matthew arrived there and appeared back when the latter disappeared.
I would recommend this book even if you’re not a witches/vampires book lover because beside this supernatural element the characters are quite human in their feelings, choices and reactions; they make tough choices in order to find the truth about their beginnings and to keep their species on the floating line (which I’m sure we would all do if our species would go extinct).
Overall rating: 4 stars (not because I didn’t like, but because I’m a pretentious human being and it’s quite hard for me to give 5 stars; I save it for those books that touch my mind deeply).
Goodreads link: Shadow of Night