Tag Archives: books on witches

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness Propels through Elizabethan Intrigue~Review and Giveaway!

If you didn’t read the best-selling A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness last summer, then you’ve missed out on one of the best adult books of this decade. I suggest you stop reading this for a minute and GO buy it immediately, then continue reading my blog for news of its sequel , Shadow of Night! Don’t forget to enter for a copy of this marvelous book featured below after the review.

Okay, so you’ve already read or quickly purchased A Discovery of Witches? Huzzah!  Because this week (July 10), its sequel Shadow of Night was released with much to-do in the press due to Harkness’ fast and furious fame last year.  Quite honestly, it’s fame this history professor turned author has earned. In a short time she’s made her mark on a literary world teeming with novels for young people (YA) that have full-fledged adults also running to every storefront and online bookstore and chatting up their friends.  

Harkness’ novels work for those of us who are mature adults by bring the same elements to us that YA novels illicit (magic, imagination, paranormal, excitement), but in..for lack of a better phrase…a more grown-up fashion. Her witch, vampire, and daemon characters are all extremely intellectual and thought-provoking and deal with real-life issues, whether it’s their budding romance or their centuries old enemies.  The romance is real-life, lasting marriage material, not just the usual teenage triangles.  The character development is exponentially deeper and more meaningful.  The stakes are even higher.

While A Discovery of Witches brought suspense, action and the dance of budding off-limits romance, Shadow of Night transports Diana (point-of-view character, witch and time walker) and Matthew (her boyfriend, vampire) literally through time to 1590 Elizabethan England on their continued quest to find the lost mysterious manuscript of Ashmole 782. They believe this ancient book holds the secrets to the origin of all their species.

As a reader, I was propelled to a time where alchemy experiments were a secret pleasure as new discoveries were being made by scientists all over 18th century England, while the Church of England regarded it as witchcraft and heresy creating a sense of fear for many. Harkness introduced at the beginning of the book, possibly in a tad slower fashion that some might not have liked depending on their tastes, each major intellectual and creative spirit of the day and weaved their contributions to society into her tale (I most certainly could tell she was a history professor that favored this time period of history as it was very well-done). Having a love for history myself, and an affinity for this time period, I enjoyed learning about each person of history through his fictional friendship with Matthew. I really enjoyed how she also fit Matthew into this circle of men and allowed us to view him as a potential contributor to history. 

The best part of the book for me was when they transported to Matthew’s home during the time when his father was still alive. As in Discovery of Witches when we grew to love his mother’s character, in Shadow of Night we meet his father and other family members.  I found myself having a more emotional attachment to Matthew as we listen along with Diana as she learns of the magnitude of Matthew’s true loss he had during his lifetime and how it haunts him.  Further questions from A Discovery of Witches were answered for me and the story line moved along as if I was on the journey with them. Harkness brings out her best fictional writing in this section as we are so emotionally invested in the book, wanting without ceasing to see through the quest that Diana and Matthew are embarking upon for truth.  Their struggles with each other, as well as family, are blanketed by both of their love for family and friends. I found myself falling in love with their characters even further.

The historical element in Shadow of Night is absolutely amazing, bringing into detail all the advancements in science and medicine of the time, as well as the struggle of alchemists and witches within society. It wasn’t as fast paced as A Discovery of Witches due to the amount of detail and readers should be prepared for the ride to slow down just a little.

The superb writing of Harkness intertwined with her knowledge base and character development, sold me on the book. I am already anxiously awaiting the next book in the All Souls Trilogy and recommend both A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night to anyone who loves history mixed with the supernatural. In fact, anyone who loves great fiction should read this series as it encompasses a little of it all~romance, suspense, supernatural, mystery, and history.

About Shadow of Night~From www.deborahharkness.com

A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Drawn to one another despite longstanding taboos, and in pursuit of Diana’s spellbound powers, the two embark upon a time-walking journey.

Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy, called Shadow of Night, plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night. The mission is to locate a witch to tutor Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy.

Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past.

For an interview with author Deborah Harkness, click on my earlier blog HERE.

DRUM ROLL~GIVEAWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FREE HARDBACK of Shadow of Night!!!!!!!

That’s right, Viking/Penguin is graciously giving away on my blog a gorgeous hardback of Shadow of Night , which you know retails for $28.95! Everyone interested in reading this book should enter and get a copy for their home library! You’ll also get a cool Ashmole 782 tattoo and six (6) sweet buttons with awesome period-related art.

All you have to do for one (1) entry is LEAVE A COMMENT below answering the question:

What interests you most about reading the All Souls Trilogy?

For an additional entries:

+1 for following my blog
+1 for following Deborah Harkness of Facebook

All entries will be assigned a number and one (1) will be randomly chosen. Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on  07/22/12 and winner chosen on 07/23/12.

Author Deborah Harkness, Bio~From her Website, In her Words

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and have lived in western Massachusetts, the Chicago area, Northern California, upstate New York, and Southern California. In other words, I’ve lived in three out of five time zones in the US! I’ve also lived in the United Kingdom in the cities of Oxford and London.

For the past twenty-eight years I’ve been a student and scholar of history, and received degrees from Mount Holyoke College, Northwestern University, and the University of California at Davis. During that time I researched the history of magic and science in Europe, especially during the period from 1500 to 1700. The libraries I’ve worked in include Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the All Souls College Library at Oxford, the British Library, London’s Guildhall Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Newberry Library—proving that I know my way around a card catalogue or the computerized equivalent. These experiences have given me a deep and abiding love of libraries and a deep respect for librarians. Currently, I teach European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

My previous books include two works of non-fiction: John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1999) and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (Yale University Press, 2007).

My career in fiction began in September 2008 when I began to wonder “if there really are vampires, what do they do for a living?” A Discovery of Witches is the unexpected answer to that question. The book debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, and was also a bestseller in the UK, France, and Germany. Thirty-eight foreign editions and translations will be published.

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I was sent a copy of Shadow of Night by Viking/Penguin in return for an honest review, which I provided. Thanks!

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One of My TOP books: A review of “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” by Katherine Howe

I just finished “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” by Katherine Howe and it is officially one of my top new favorite books! What an amazing read surrounding the historical time period of the Salem witch trials.

Main character Connie Goodwin, while doing research for her doctoral dissertation and trying to clean-up (at the request of her mother) her grandmother’s ancient-looking, overgrown abandoned house near Salem, discovers much more than she ever bargained for in regards to both historical evidence on the Salem witch trials and her own family history.

This book flips back and forth with effortless ease between characters of the 169os in Salem and nearby towns and Connie in the modern era of 1991. As a reader you’ll never feel lost, only more and more intrigued by the mystery that Connie is uncovering. In fact, the book will drawn you in so far, you’ll feel as if you are in the book too. 

When she finds a key and a little piece of paper in a dust-covered family heirloom Bible with the name Deliverance Dane on it, she starts to unravel a story of a woman you’ll never forget. I guarantee you’ll never think of the Salem witch trials, or the women accused, the same ever again. Connie’s dissertation work depends on finding a Physick (or recipe) book, but it becomes so much more than that to Connie. It is a story of redemption for the character, Deliverance Dane and all her descendants, as many who were accused and killed during the witch trails were unjustly sentenced.

I was always intrigued by the Salem witch trials. Maybe it is just because I am interested in all things history. But I always felt there was more to the story than just that these women were accused of being witches. Evidence, as the book follows, points to the fact that these women were God-fearing women who happened to have the medicinal gift of using various herb concoctions and prayers to promote healing. Since it was before the time of medical doctors, these women took care of the people in their communities.  

I think that Howe did a superb job in educating the reader about the history of this time period through the eyes of the accused. She gives us an historical look at the stereotypical descriptions of witches and why they came about, but also reminds us that they were regular Puritan-garbed women.  I mentioned to Howe that I was curious about how many of these women seemed so religious and used prayer along with their concoctions. It seemed that their gifts of healing were God sent. Many women and their husbands were respected members of their Puritan communities.

Howe replied to me on Facebook, when I mentioned my curiosity about the accused being contradictorily Christian: “I address that question a bit in this talk given at Google last year (careful, it’s about 30 minutes long) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5L36OrxM-c.”  For more video on the book and why and how she wrote it, view here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_OBQ3QSb4g&feature=related.  She has some great interviews on YouTube.

 The author, Katherine Howe, is in fact a descendant of both Elizabeth Proctor(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Proctor), who you might know because her character was fictiously dramatized for The Crucible, and Elizabeth Howe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_How), the latter who did not survive the Salem witch trials.

Not only was the story good and the plot tight, it was great writing overall. Her vocabulary is phenomenal and her voice is so strong and poignant. The characters are firmly formed, detailed, and delightful.  You will leave this book with an emotional attachment to the characters and to the souls of the women who endured the Salem witch trials. She could very well become one of the best known American historical fiction writers ever.  In fact, she recently told me via Facebook that another book is on the way this year, not a direct sequel though, and I can’t wait to read it. However, I did hear that a sequel including Connie will come at some point.

I don’t often read books over again, but this is one I would even though I’ve discovered the mystery already along with main character Connie. It is completely spellbinding and mystical (and no, I’m not even trying to make a play on words with “spell”). Her story and her writing truly do amaze me and I hope to continue to read much more of her in years to come.

If you’d like more information on the author Katherine Howe go online to www.katherinehowe.com and view her awesome website, and for the book http://www.physickbook.com.  Here’s a trailer for the book as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcJxKLw8-M8&NR=1.

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