All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Read by Tracy November 2011 and August 2012

Tracy recommends these as historical romance novels

"It begins with absence and desire, it begins with blood and fear", "It began with a discovery of witches". Although the second volume in Harkness's wildly buzzed-about series just hit bookshelves earlier this summer, fans of A Discovery of Witches and now Shadow of Night nonetheless eagerly await the still-unannounced release of Book 3. With the first two instalments of this utterly thrilling trilogy, Harkness is right on point in creating an epic work of literary fantasy. A professor of history at the University of Southern California, Harkness boldly imagines a world where past, present and future are greatly influenced by demons, witches and vampires. All Souls tells the enchanting story of these creatures - their desires and fears, hopes and sorrows, successes and failures.

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy 2) by Deborah HarknessBook Cover of Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy 2) by Deborah Harkness

Read by Tracy in August 2012

Tracy recommends this as a love story surrounded by historiy

Shadow of Night follows on from A Discovery of Witches and the hunt by historian and witch, Diana Bishop and her 1500 year old vampire lover Matthew for the mysterious and hopefully complete Ashmore 782 through 16th century Europe thanks to Diana's newly discovered timewalking skills. Once they arrive in Elizabethan England and the 1590 Woodstock home of Matthew, Diana must quickly start on her schooling of the lost arts of magic whilst attempting to blend in, so the first priority is to find a witch that can mentor Diana. Immediately Harkness introduces us to a range of famous characters; Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, playwright and a devious daemon in love with Matthew; Thomas Harriott, another daemon and astronomer; George Chapman, a human poet looking for his next patron; Henry Percy, the human Earl of Northumberland; and Sir Walter Raleigh, confidant of Queen Elizabeth and explorer of the Virginia colonies. Diana also learns that Matthew is in fact the mysterious historical figure Matthew Roydon (and a spy for Her Majesty to boot), is the sixth member of what Shakespeare would call the "School of Night," a group of "mad, bad and dangerous to know" Elizabethans whose heretical opinions and disdain for the corrupt court of the queen won them a place in history that Diana knows well. Soon after arriving they must depart for Matthew's home at Sept-Tours at the behest of his father, Philippe. After Philippe finally agree to be Diana's protector and make her one of his children, they soon return back to Blackfriars, London. As time progresses, Diana starts to gradually uncover his magic powers and the power that she holds.

The reader is immersed in the historical and political milieu of the late 16th century, where the search for the alchemical philosopher's stone consumes royalty and commoners alike. On a slightly negative note, there was too much detail in some areas that it was hard to absorb all the wranglings of each characters plus the extremely detailed dicussions on the fashion of the time, but once you make it through the main characters take central stage and I was fascinated by the historical content and how difficult it was during these times for anyone deemed different and almost immediately labelled as a witch. I particularly took a disliking to the character Verin, her discussions with Gallowglass seemed jarring and out of character. Diana and Matthew must also face their own personal demons and maintain their intimacy despite the world around them dictating they must be apart. Shadow of Night is told solely from Diana's perspective, so although the witch trials are mentioned, we are not privy to all the wheeling and dealing Matthew attempts to do to have the accused freed. As the story progresses and the group are on the trail of the Ashmore 782, we are taken on a journey through Europe and the unpredictability of the ruling families. However, every page had a historical fact, down to the familiarity of furniture which Diana had seen many times throughout her career as a historian. It is strange how some books intertwine, I have never been particularly strong in relation to Greek history, but have recently finished Madeline Millers award winning The Song of Achilles which also talked about the story of Thetis and Peleus (grab the book and find out more). As Diana and Matthew finally discover the Ashmore 782 in the royal court of Prague and must follow the whims of Rudolf II, the mystery doesn't enlighten them, in fact it leaves more questions. After recently visiting Prague, I have come to the realistion that some areas haven't changed much since Harkness did her research and the descriptions of the city invoke mystery and beauty. Meanwhile back in the present, Ysabeau and the de Clermont family are attempting to ensure that there is no trace of Matthew and Diana's visit to 1590, however, Diana can't help herself and changes the course of history - because she can. Shadow of Night won the Goodreads Paranormal Fantasy choice award in 2012 and came sixth in the BookPage best books for 2012 awards.

This is a fantastic choice for your book club. If you want some further information and book club discussion questions - check out the OurBookClub Book Club page.

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A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1) by Deborah HarknessBook Cover of A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1) by Deborah Harkness

Read by Tracy in November 2011

Tracy recommends this as a modern day Mills and Boon

The world is made up of four species - Humans, Witches, Vampires and Daemons. The Humans try to ignore everything via the "bury your head in the sand" method. Witches, Vampires and Daemons had made a pact millenia ago to co-exist but not mingle and therefore not draw human attention to themselves. Sounds good doesn't it. Dr Diana Bishop is researching a keynote speech at the Bodleian Library at Oxford when she comes across a previously thought lost manuscript (Ashmole 782). She finds the manuscript not what she required for her research and sends it back into the hidden depths of the library. Her lack of understanding brings her to the attention of fellow witches, vampires and daemons who all eagerly want the manuscript as it is believed it holds the secrets to the different species. I liked her discussion on scientists being mainly made up of vampires thanks to their solitary work habits and patience. She is soon drawn into the sphere of Matthew de Cleremont a 1500 year old vampire, and although witches and vampires are not supposed to consort things soon turn from hostile to steamy as Matthew encourages Diana to draw on her previously unused magic skills and unravel the secrets surrounding the manuscript. This book does dispell most of the current vampire thoughts i.e. here vampires don't have fangs, can work in a normal job, are able to eat and drink and can go outside in the sunlight, pretty much everything except they are also incredibly wealthy and live forever. The three species even do a weekly yoga class together. What originally seemed like an interesting premise about the differences in the world soon turns into a romantic novel in the same group as Mills and Boon and Matthew starts to end every sentence with a French love word. This is the first book in a trilogy so I hope the next two cut to the chase and get over the should they, shouldn't they scenario and let us see how the families can stand together whilst facing the hard heartened Congregation who have dictated Diana and Matthew's future.

This is a fantastic choice for your book club. If you want some further information and book club discussion questions - check out the OurBookClub Book Club page.

Buy Now

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