Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness

I’ve never approached a review with absolutely no idea where to begin…until now.

This book is so full and beautiful and complicated that I literally had to take a break half way through, read a different book in its entirety, and then return to this one.

It’s no surprise it’s been brought to the screen. This series could last a lifetime. It reminds me of Game of Thrones, another series that put me through the ringer.

There’s just so much I would love to share in the hopes that people will (if you haven’t already….because apparently this is also a cult classic in the witch world) take the time to savour this series. It’s a nine course meal after all, but at the risk of turning this into a forty page essay, I’m just going to say that it’s truly breathtaking.

There are so many intensely beautiful, tragic, complicated and vicious characters that at times I struggled to keep track. I have an incredibly sensitive soft spot for Ysabeau and Phillipe (god how I love Phillipe). Gallowglass, Goody Alsop & Rabbi Judah Loew would need books just for themselves. In fact, most of these characters need their own series. I’m in awe of the humane rendering of some of the greatest minds of this period in the sciences, arts and politics. I love the story within the story… the tales of witches and vampires and daemons who are so much more human than ‘monster’ and flawed that each one is completely and utterly relatable. Not to mention this book literally takes you to a whole different era in time with Diana and Matthew’s time travelling, so add on new characters and new cultures, customs and places in an historical period we know only that which we know from books (but I will get to that later) and you find yourself thrown into a kaleidoscope of realities and time frames that’s truly fascinating.

First off, Harkness has the descriptive powers of a literary god. The details, historical and cultural accuracy, time period proficiency and heart that comes through the characters and their core is nothing short of phenomenal. I don’t think you need to be a historical buff or literary buff or scientific buff or mystical buff (a buff of anything really) to appreciate the intensity and craftsmanship of this piece.

Secondly, I think I may have learned more through these two books, particularly this one, than I have in years. Not to mention, she takes you on a journey where imagination comes to life. It’s as if she stepped into my head and heard me ask, I wonder what it would be like if, and just went creatively crazy on me. She’s kind of my dream come true.

Third, reading this book left me feeling like the proverbial fly on a wall in a fantastical world based on part truth, part history and part fantasy. The perfect mix.

Love, mystery, history, science, alchemy, politics, wars, witches, daemons, vampires, witch hunts, dragons, time travelling, babies, London, Prague, houses that live and breathe, spells, blood, lust, honour, loyalty, Shakespeare, the telescope (lol…one of my favourites), weavers, family, murder, torture, redemption, bonding. The list could go on and on.

You have to read it to understand. Words cannot do it justice. It’s the kind of read you either hate or love. Suffice it to say, I’m in love.

Go on now….start.


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