Category Archives: book review

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness – Book

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness is the sequel to the book A Discovery of Witches which was on the NYT Bestseller’s List for a time last year. In A Discovery of Witches, Diana Bishop, a graduate student in London studying the history of alchemy, writes out a call slip for some books while studying at the Bodelian Library and one of the books that is delivered to her is an ancient manuscript called Ashmole 782, which no one has been able to access for centuries. She has no idea how important this book is to the “creatures” of the world; the vampires, the daemons, and the witches. She notes that three pages are missing from the book and sees that the text is unreadable, so she sends it back.

The moment Diana calls this book out of “the stacks” her life changes forever. A very handsome vampire, Matthew de Claremont, falls in love with her and vampires in love are formidable. They do not like to share. Fortunately, Diana finds that she is in love with Matthew also. Unfortunately creatures are not supposed to have mixed relationship and Diana is a witch. Diana is a very powerful witch but she does not understand her powers or know how to use them as she has been spellbound. After a rather serious attack by a powerful witch and after having to deal with a great deal of hostility and unwanted attention from other creatures, Diana and Matthew go to stay with Diana’s mom and her partner. They need to learn how to travel through time back to 1590 to find witches who will teach Diana about her magic, and where they will, they hope be able to find Ashmole 782 before the crucial first three pages were torn from it.

Deborah Harkness sucks us in again to another book that it is difficult to put down. Matthew and Diana are the kind of characters to whom we have no difficulty getting attached. Ms. Harkness is a master of dialogue; her characters say things that are both natural and amusing. We meet Christopher Marlowe, Will Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I and other lesser known people who were hanging around our planet in 1590. There is plenty of suspense. Witches were not as safe from persecution in 1590 as Matthew remembered. Diana has to understand her own magic before she will know how to travel back to 2009. What do they learn about Ashmole 782? I can’t wait for Book 3 in this All Souls’ Trilogy, which is supposed to unravel all these mysteries and more.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – Book

I just finished reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I just happened to run into an available copy of the book so I grabbed it, even though it involved jumping ahead of my lists. This was a surprisingly enjoyable book, the first volume of a trilogy. I swore I would never read a vampire story and this book does have vampires, especially the very handsome, charming, possessive, and pale Matthew de Clermont. Matthew has lived for 500 years, is a leader to his fingertips, and is as dangerous as you would expect him to be.

The witch Diana Bishop is the central character in this story, however, and when the story begins she is trying very hard, and rather unsuccessfully, to bury her magic and be a normal human scholar. Diana and Matthew fall in love.

Can a culture allow cross-over relationships between magical creatures. This is the issue that foments a war between the three magical groups.

The third magical group is the daemons and of course there are also both evil and appealing daemons in this story.

This tale is a cross between Harry Potter (in its appeal) and Diane Gabaldon’s Outlander series (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes) about Claire Randall and her Scotsman, Jamie Fraser who meet at Stonehenge, fall in love, and travel through time.

This is not a teenage vampire fantasy; it is a fantasy for adults, a made-up world in the best tradition of made-up worlds. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Being Polite to Hitler by Robb Forman Dew – Book

Robb Forman Dew, despite the name, is a female. She has written a number of books about female characters and she also wrote this book, Being Polite to Hitler. It is a good title and she probably had the title first along with the idea that some people are so worried about propriety that they would probably end up “being polite to Hitler.” This could have made for a great book had this been an important recurring theme in her novel, but it is not.

The story is about the Scofield’s of Washburn, Ohio and the matriarch of the Scofield’s who is named Agnes. The book is also about the 50’s with some appearances near the end of the book by issues from the 60’s, especially the Civil Rights’ Movement and the assassination of President Kennedy. The story will be most enjoyable to women of a certain age, but it is missing something too, which is an overall involvement of the reader in the story. You definitely feel that you are just reading about someone else’s life and it is perfectly pleasant and sometimes has complications, but it doesn’t really have a point or even any great effect on us emotionally.

This was not a book from my book list. I picked it up at the library in passing. I did not mind spending time with the Scofield’s but the book did not have that je ne sais quoi that a great book has.