Spoiler Alert: If you have not read the first book in the series, A Discovery of Witches, skip this review and just jump to the bun recipe. Shadow of Night is the second book in a trilogy by Deborah Harkness about a witch, Diana Bishop, who falls in love with a vampire, Matthew de Clermont, in modern day Oxford. Harkness creates a world where there are three kinds of magical creatures mingled in with all of us regular humans - witches, vampires and daemons (who are highly intelligent and artistic people with some sort of magical powers, though much less impressive than vampires and witches). These three groups do not mix well and in fact are forbidden, by a magical person governing body called The Congregation, from hooking up with each other in the biblical sense. In the first book, Diana and Matthew meet cute over the study of an ancient text - Ashmole 782 - which may contain the secret of the magical creatures beginnings. Diana's study of the text brings her in to harm's way, since it witches, daemons and vampires have been trying to get their hands on it for decades. In comes the dashing and protective Matthew de Clermont. The two fall in love and are both determined to find out what the Ashmole manuscript means. In the first book, Diana, who has been unable to really perform any witchcraft because she is spellbound, is starting to come into and be able to use (though not control) her immense powers. The first book ends and the second book begins with Matthew and Diana (who are now married), time walking back to Elizabethan England in an effort to recover the now lost Ashmole text. The couple end up in Matthew's English countryside home, and they are soon surrounded by well known historical figures include Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, Thomas Harriot and Thomas Percy, the Earl of Northumberland and Sir Walter Raleigh (here is where it was convenient to be reading on an ipad and be able to quickly look at the wiki entries on these people). Matthew, in Elizabethan England is known as Matthew Roydon and is known a a spy of the queen and is part of this impressive circle of friends. These friends, except for Kit Marlowe, who is in love with Matthew, quickly accept Diana into their fold and help the couple both mask who Diana really is and do the research they came back in time for. The hunt for Ashmole 782 fades into the background a bit for a large portion of this book. Instead, the focus is on Matthew and Diana's relationship (they are married again in this time line) and whether these two lovebirds can have children. It is this issue that they believe Ashmole will shed some light on. In addition, a good portion of the book is devoted to Diana's effort to learn her powers and craft by experienced witches. There is a general sense that some sort of war or battle is coming, especially if Diana does get pregnant, and Diana needs to become the witch she was meant to be and overcome her years of being spellbound. An interesting issue in this book was the problem of how the "modern" Diana and Matthew will alter history by their presence. This a particular issue with regard to Matthew's father Philippe, who died during World War II. It is emotionally harrowing for Matthew to be around his father again and eventually he does tell his father how he dies. Towards the end of the book there is also a visit in the past from Diana's father, who died when she was a child. The last section of the book certainly read like a set up to the real action in the third book, but I enjoyed the rich historical detail Harkness included, and will miss it when the action rushes back to the present day. This book had more heft to it and it felt a little less bodice ripping romance than the first book, which for me is a good thing. In sum, I thought this was a great follow up to A Discovery of Witches and am excited about the third and final installment in the All Souls Trilogy.
As with the first book, to some extent there is a limited amount of food here because one of the main characters is a vampire - what I am going to do, make a blood soup? However Diana, as with the first book, does love her comfort foods (last time it was a hell of a lot of t), here, as she wanders around 17th century London, she munches on meat pies or buns of some sort. I do not recall whether they had currants or whether i decided that they must have had currants. I googled buns in England I think and came up with currant buns and hot cross buns. These are hot cross buns with currants, and they are the perfect fall treat - a rich, highly spiced dough dotted with dried currants and orange zest.
2 cups bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons fine salt
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted2/3 cup dried currants (you could use raisins)
Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 heaping teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice