Monday, August 6, 2012

"Shadow Of Night" by Deborah Harkness

Yes, you're seeing it correctly - SIX stars!
* * * * * *
  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (July 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023486
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 2 inches 
  • Also available as a e-book and an 'Audible' talking book   I had pre-ordered this book and began to read it immediately - and I also listened to it in the Audible version (which was done by a remarkable gifted narrator, Jennifer Ikeada. That's how much I did not want the story to end.

I became a huge fan of Deborah Harkness' work after I read her first novel ,  A Discovery Of Witches. That book book left me spellbound - and it was another read that I just wanted to go on and on. Shadow of Night is a the second book in a 3 book "All Souls Trilogy" and it is is a remarkable piece of fiction. I don't know how she manages it but Ms. Harkness has fashioned a world of 'creatures' (vampires, witches, daemons, and warm bloods) that, although totally fiction, feels more like world we might all want to least I sure do!

This volume continues the fantasy world and romance of Diana Bishop and Matthew deCleremont. Diana, a witch who has never wanted to learn about her powers, is an Oxford professor of history who has discovered a very 'bewitched', very important alchemical book called Ashmole 782. She uncovered this mysterious tome while she was studying at the Bodleian library in Oxford. Matthew is a 1500 year old vampire who falls head over heels in a forbidden love for the witch (the 'covenant' that guides the behavior of creatures specifically forbids love between creature species).

In a search for the origins of Ashmole 782 Diana and Matthew "time walk" back to 1590 - an Elizabethan time of wars, superstitions and persecutions. Matthew is employed by Elizabeth I as a member of her spy networks. Together, Diana and Matthew, search for the many strands of truth, relationships and rivalries that twine together as they strive to uncover the secrets contained in Ashmole 782.

This book is fantastical, extraordinary and filled with passion, mystery and intrigue. It so much, much more than just a quirky story about a vampire and a witch. It's enthralling, riveting and totally, thoroughly magnificent. I have to put these two books of Deborah Harkness' up there on my top ten novels of all time.... that's how much I like them!

I found it fascinating to look up some of the history of the legendary "School of Night" - and other historical references in the book that I found has a basis in true historical fact. Fascinating stuff.

My only concerns are:
1. How long will I have to wait for the third book of the trilogy to be published?

2. When will the movie be made? If ever a book needs to be made into a movie - this is the one! I can't wait!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Mistress Of Mourning" by Karen Harper

* * * * *
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade; 1 edition (July 3, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451236906
  • 8.2 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches 

I'm a past fan of Karen Harper's books - so I had "Mistress of Mourning" on pre-order and, as luck would have it, I had a break in my "must-read's" when it was released and I decided to delve right into this excellent read. I found it to be a fascinating book that ended all too soon.

Although this book is most definitely a historical piece of fiction the historical notes on chandlers (wax workers), their guilds and ritual duties during the Tudor period was fascinating stuff in and of itself. This book is also a romance but the romance part of the book was woven into the narrative very skillfully and produced a a solid plot line with the romance part being believable and highly readable - not suger sweet or over-the-top oohhhhinh and ahhhing's.

The plot involves Queen Elizabeth of York - the wife of the infamous Henry VII, and the chandler (wax worker) Varina Westcott - a widow with more autonomy than the age normally allowed for women. Varina's love interest is one, Nicholas Sutton, an ambitious and loyal servant to the Royal family. The tale includes pieces of the story of the 'princes in the tower', Elizabeth's two brothers whose deaths in the Tower are a mystery to this day, and two of her children who died in infancy - as so many babies were in those days. Varina is a master chandler (wax-worker) who has an uncanny ability to carve wax into, besides beautiful pillar candles and beautiful angels, uncanny likenesses of people. The Queen has used Varina's talents to fashion likenesses of her departed brother's and children but Varina's greatest mission has yet to be assigned.

When Arthur, Prince of Wales, the Queen's eldest son, dies suddenly after only months of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Varina and Nicholas are sent on a secretive mission to investigate the death and bring their findings back to the Queen. Was Arthur's sudden demise from an ague really as simple as that or was it something more sinister? Was a murder plot involved?

You'll have to read the book to discover the answer - but I do believe that you'll enjoy the reading of this book very much. Entertaining from start to finish, this book will appeal to historical novel fans, Tudor fans, romance fans and anyone else who enjoys a good murder mystery and a highly enjoyable book!