Harkness, Deborah: Shadow of Night (All Souls) (2012)

NPG 5994; Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by Nicholas Hilliard
Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by Nicholas Hilliard
watercolour on vellum, circa 1590: NPG 5994
Only for non-commercial use

A Discovery of Witches was one of the many books that my librarian, Ragnhild, recommended to me. I loved it and was highly motivated to read Shadow of Night. Now I have, and am left with a feeling of a book well-written. Deborah Harkness manages the difficult art that putting music to text is. Shadow of Night was one of those books that leaves my husband and children frustrated. I had trouble putting it down and being there for them. Sometimes I wonder if there ought to be a Books Anonymous.

One of my favorite things about Shadow of Night was the knowledge that Deborah showed in her telling of the tale of Diana and Matthew in 1590 Europe (especially England). There was a sense of reverence in the treatment of the milieu. Another excellent thing was my learning a new word. I don’t often have to use a dictionary while reading, but this time I got to. I love that. Her word was so perfect in its context as well (termagant). Thank you for that gift.

Being a 21st century Western woman in Elizabethan England was not easy for Diana. The world for women was so different back then. Being property cannot have made life pleasant for most. Diana left the modern world to seek help in mastering her magic and peace from persecution. What she ended up with was a world where humans were hunting witches.

While Matthew belonged to the richer part of society, Harkness also showed us the poorer side of these times. This was a time of changes in England. Farmers were losing their livelihood, people were moving to the cities seeking employment and poverty was rising. In fact, we are looking at the perfect recipe for a time where scapegoats were looked for. By now, wise women were equated with witch/devil/plagues/curses. Being different was dangerous and no-one was as different as a vampire and a witch together.

Looking for traces of Ashmole 782 turns out to be an extremely difficult task, hindered in part by Diana’s own challenges. Fortunately for Matthew and Diana they have Matthew’s friends (George Chapman, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Harriot, Sir Walter Raleigh and Lord Northumberland – Henry Percy) from the School of Night to help them.

Diana becomes acquainted with Mary Sidney (Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke). Together they work on Sidney’s alchemical projects.

Along with their own challenges in finding peace and education, Matthew’s role as spy for Queen Elizabeth and son of Phillipe de Claremont will bring them face to face with their own demons.

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