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Witches and vampires return

Sequel travels at lightning speed

By Chelyen Davis

The Free Lance-Star

IF  YOU’RE looking for a summer beach read that involves vampires, witches, a bit of mystery, some romance, science, time-travel and Elizabethan England, then Deborah Harkness has the book for you. Harkness’ “Shadow of Night,” the sequel to 2011’s “A Discovery of Witches,” is due out July 10.

The background: In the first book, historian and witch Diana Bishop called up an ancient book in the Oxford library, one that attracted the attention of witches, vampires and others. That included vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, with whom Diana quickly formed a romantic connection. Pursued by various creatures, the two fled to Diana’s aunt back in America, where Diana’s own witch powers started asserting themselves. She and Matthew decided they’d be safer in the past, in which they can hide because among Diana’s various new powers is the ability to move in time.

That’s more exposition than you’ll get in “Shadow of Night,” which picks up exactly where “A Discovery of Witches” left off and barrels forward.

The two land in 1590, in Matthew’s former life, and must quickly explain themselves to his friends. Diana, who is in the past not just to hide but to find a witch who can help her understand her own newfound power, must also learn to blend in with Elizabethan society—supernatural and otherwise; remember, they burned witches back then—while the pair search for the book that started it all, which is supposed to explain the origins of supernatural creatures, including whether a witch and a vampire can procreate.

The book moves at nearly breakneck speed, as Diana and Matthew travel around Europe, deal with the 1590 members of his family, confront Matthew’s duties in the era as an Elizabethan spy and try to sort out Diana’s abilities. It’s set largely in the past, flipping back to the doings of Diana and Matthew’s cohorts in the present only infrequently. And it ends, as did the first book, with the promise of more to come in the final book in the trilogy.

This is not a book for someone who hasn’t read the first in the series. Harkness has created a complicated world with myriad rules, and the exposition of the first book is necessary to understand what’s going on in this one. But readers who liked the first book (and many did, it was a New York Times best-seller)—or those who like a good supernatural story with some depth and a wealth of historical detail (Harkness is a history professor) will find much to enjoy in this one.

Chelyen Davis  is a reporter with  The Free Lance–Star.


By Deborah Harkness

(Viking, $28.95,  592 pp.)


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