Readers looking for a potent dose of supernatural entertainment should consult the magic of three enchanting novels. Thanks in part to the wildly successful tales of a particular boy wizard, magic is all the literary rage. It’s also rather advantageous to be related to well-known Salem accused witches. Author Katherine Howe is a descendant of accused Salem witches Elizabeth Proctor and Elizabeth Howe. In her novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Howe represents her family connection to the famous witch trials as she deftly intertwines the tales of seventeenth century Salem accused witch Deliverance and modern-day Harvard grad student Connie. The tale is part mystery, part history lesson, and completely engrossing. In addition to the inspiration of her heritage, Howe’s own academic pursuits (she holds degrees in philosophy, art history, and American and New England Studies) undoubtedly enhance the narrative, as her erudite protagonist uncovers the magical secrets of her family history while searching for the titular book and also meeting the demands of an impatient dissertation advisor.
Speaking of magical academics, University of Southern California professor Deborah Harkness, a historian who specializes in alchemy, captivates with the second offering from her All Souls trilogy, Shadow of Night. The second story begins where the first, A Discovery of Witches, left off—as witch Diana and vampire Matthew defy the linear notion of time progression and travel to 1590. Harkness’s detailed depiction of life in 1590s England, France and Prague coupled with the inclusion of historical figures of the era as characters who interact with (or in some cases are) the novel’s vampires, witches, and daemons, as well as the historian-author’s own extensive knowledge of alchemical texts and processes, enrich this subsequent installment immeasurably. And in case potential readers worry that this trilogy could provide another possessive-vampire-protects-girl storyline, Harkness’s crafty witch can more than take care of herself. (In an added bit of interest, like author Howe, character Diana is a descendant of an actual accused Salem witch, Bridget Bishop, who was hanged in 1692.)
Magic wrapped in a bygone era is also at the heart of Erin Morgenstern‘s The Night Circus, a perfectly-paced page-turner. As most of us have little free time and are regularly bombarded with text, we rarely allow a book more than a few pages to ensnare us. Morgenstern’s novel captured me at the first line of the prologue: “The circus arrives without warning.” A fantastic nocturnal circus that appears mysteriously, compelling characters, Tarot card divination and spells, and time manipulation are just some of the elements that make this novel absolutely addictive. In addition, as the true testament to a great book is the level of the reader’s disappointment over finishing it, at the conclusion of this novel, I was downright despondent. I even hoped for a while that the magic of the narrative would somehow manifest additional chapters.
For a few mini-vacations this summer—or enjoyed in succession for a more extended escape from reality—these enthralling three are well worth a read. You may even find yourself spellbound…
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