I first read about ‘A Discovery of Witches’ in 2009 – many months before it hit the shelves. I waited with an anticipation I had not felt for a new publication in quite some time – there seemed to be something about this novel of witches and history that would give a post twilight world the intelligent escapism it was crying out for. Happily I wasn’t disappointed, I found the protagonists ambivalence to the magic dynasty she was born into to be intriguing, her obsession with history understandable and the tall handsome stranger intent on protecting her very titillating. Furthermore, the world Harkness created was both credible and vivid. So often in fantasy today it falls to authors to completely reconstruct the mythos of the magical world in order to put their mark on it – and this was certainly a new world with politics and magical hierarchies that set Harkness apart.
The plot flows quickly and methodically – we meet Diana and Matthew whilst Diana is working at Oxford, when she innocently calls up Ashmole 782. This book is one that Witch, Daemon and Vampire kind have only heard rumours about – is it the first Spell book? Or something more, could it be the book that contains the answer to the origins of all three species? One thing is for certain; both Witch and Vampire will go to any lengths to get their hands on it. Diana and Matthew must defy centuries of prejudice if they are to survive and understand both their feelings for each other and the implications of the book. This journey will take them from modern Oxford, to France, to the USA and finally to Elizabethan England.
Not always is a sequel as polished or as inventive as a debut novel, especially when an authors first book garners the acclaim of ‘A Discovery of Witches’, yet I was thrilled to find that I enjoyed ‘A Shadow of Night’ just as much as its predecessor. The character arks were written skilfully and so the characters grew as the plot was driven on. I find Harkness’ writing style to be extremely readable and enjoyable, my only criticism is that it will be another year before I find out what happens!