Shadow of Night

Written by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night is the second novel in the All Souls Trilogy, with the paranormal time-slip now set in 1590. Historian Diana Bishop is descended from a long line of witches. She breaks the witches’ law to marry vampire Matthew Clairmont. Having discovered an alchemical manuscript that has missing pages, the couple travel back in time to Elizabethan London, the de Clairmont family château in France and palaces, libraries and monasteries in Prague, to find the original. They also search for a witch to teach Diana to control her powers. Meanwhile Matthew reclaims his former identity as poet and spy and member of a group of radicals known as The School of the Night. This really did exist and included Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh and mathematician Thomas Harriot. They are brilliantly portrayed, as is John Dee and a very entertaining Elizabeth I.

The novel parallels the Elizabethan real world with a world of vampires, daemons and witches, when superstition was part of every-day life. The notion of threads that is woven through the story links the ideas of science and the imagination and of myth and fantasy.

Harkness’ Elizabethan London is as alive as any character in the fiction. Diana has to emulate the perfect Elizabethan woman, and the descriptions of how she wears and feels Elizabethan dress, wrestles with its speech and the problems she has mixing in society illustrate the otherness of this time for any 21st-century sensibility. The atmosphere of the late Elizabethan age is more vividly portrayed than in many a ‘straightforward’ historical novel.

A reader needs time to savour this tale, fast paced but stuffed with detail. Harkness has added a paranormal edge to historical fiction and created enchantment.