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ShadowOfNight-DHarkness2Deborah Harkness is on the top of my list right now for being a simply brilliant writer. I just finished Shadow of Night, her second in the All Souls Trilogy, and am as spellbound as I was when I finished A Discovery of Witches, her first.

What blows me away, aside from the sheer endurance it must take to write a nearly 600 page novel, is the fact that Harkness sets most of this book (which, although it begins in modern day France and New Hampshire), in Elizabethan times —  in England, Prague, returning to the Blackfriars in England, and finally a return to France in the present day.

When one of the two main characters, Matthew DeClermont, a centuries-old vampire and modern day geneticist, time walks back to 1590 with the last of the Bishop witches, Diana Bishop, we see him as Matthew Royden. Royden, a spy for Queen Elizabeth, actually once lived and was a member of The School of Night, which also included Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, George Chapman, Thomas Herriot and the Earl of Northumberland. Part of the author’s genius is writing a story that integrates all the above-mentioned, plus others who lived at the time, with fictional characters against a backdrop of historically correct time and place. It is simply amazing. DiscOfWitches-DHarkness2Some of the characters are witches, daemons and vampires; some are human. In the back of the book, Harkness lists all her characters with an asterisk next to those who actually lived in Elizabethan times, (including Shakespeare, though he didn’t belong to the School of Night.)

Harkness’ characters, whether human or creature, are rich, complex and utterly believable. I don’t know if her novels fall under the category of urban fantasy or perhaps fantasy, but I can tell you, she is hardly riding the coattails of anyone who has created tales in the popular vein of vampire mythology. She is in a category all her own. Although I have highly praised Deborah Harkness’ talents, I have not revealed the story line of the All Souls Trilogy, and for this I suggest, if interested, you read more about the two novels published so far. You can find a concise summary of Shadow of Night here and of Ms. Harkness’ first novel, A Discovery of Witches here.  About the latter, goodreads.com says, “Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense.”

Like so many good novelists, Harkness demands your full attention; the novels are challenging, but so very worth the journey.

 

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