With her first novel, A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness experienced the kind of success few authors dare to dream of. At a time when there is no shortage of books devoted to creatures that go bump in the night, Harkness’ hefty tome—the first in a trilogy—managed to find its way into the hands of millions of readers. It introduced readers to Diana Bishop, a witch who denies her craft, and Matthew Clairmont, an austere geneticist who also happens to be a vampire, entrancing us with the irresistible—but forbidden—relationship that developed between the two. When last we saw Diana and Matthew, they were attempting to travel to the 16th century in an effort to preserve their lives and unlock the secrets surrounding Diana’s magic.
Shadow of Night picks up right where the previous book left off, with Diana and Matthew touching down in Elizabethan England. Their hunt for a witch who can help Diana harness her powers and the mysterious Ashmole 782 volume carries them through the labyrinthine streets of London, as well as across the sea to France and Prague. Initially reveling in her ability to bend time, Diana soon learns that you can travel across the globe and even across centuries, but the troubles of your life will always find you. As Diana struggles to master the secrets of her craft, she must also confront the fact that Matthew has been keeping some earth-shattering secrets.
From the very first pages of Shadow of Night it is evident that this novel is as much a love story about a bygone era as it is about Matthew and Diana. It overflows with a colorful cast of characters, many of whom Harkness has plucked straight from the history books, and Harkness renders the late 1500s in exquisite detail. At times, this meticulousness causes the plot to stall, but the writing is so rich, and the characters so compelling, readers are sure to forgive. Best of all, Harkness manages to execute with aplomb the act of answering old questions while posing new ones that will intensify anticipation for the final installment. Readers who have been counting down the days, take heart: The wait was most assuredly worth it.
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Read a Q&A with Deborah Harkness for A Discovery of Witches.