Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (2012)

The second volume of this All Souls trilogy had come out this summer, so it was a good one to get back into audio books. As I said with Discover of Witches, the first one, I am not fond of vampire stories, and there were times in the beginning when I quickly tired of the vampire related passages, but all in all, another fun historical fiction read. Diana (a witch from the 21st century) and Matthew (I forgot how many hundreds of years old he was, but this vampire has been on the planet for quite a while) return to 1590 to escape persecution in today's world, answer some questions, teach Diana to control her powers, and look for an old alchemical manuscript. They land in Elizabethan England and it is definitely fun to see the author's take on Queen Elizabeth, Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, and briefly William Shakespeare.They also travel to Prague and hang out with Roman emperor Rudolf II. I am sure many of the other characters - Edward Kelly, astronomer Thomas Herriot, and others are real historical figures. the fictional characters are entertaining too - Isabo Matthew's mother and matriarch, Pierre, the butler, Annie and Jack. But when we see a glimpse of the 21st century, I realized I had forgotten some of the fictional characters.

My favorite parts of the book involved the times Diana was learning about her powers. I liked the image of the world consisting of threads of different colors between people and things, that bind us all together. And as usual, I like any mention of books, libraries and research. I liked the fact that royalty and nobility dabbled in scientific experiments, had their own laboratories, considered scientists valuable to their courts, even if they were mostly interested in immortality, the philosopher's stone, and alchemy. I also liked that Diana had to learn to talk 16th century English, and to dress appropriately too. I think that would be one of my hardest tasks, to manage to move around in those huge dresses.