I adored the first book in this trilogy, "A Discovery of Witches" and waited impatiently for this second part. It in no way let me down, as it was completely as intelligent, intriguing, expansive and wonderful as the first.
After realizing that all the creatures want Diana, and that there is nowhere they can be safe in the present while Diana learns to use her magic, she and Matthew time-walk back to 1591, where Matthew is close with the erudite movers-and-shakers of the day: Sir Walter Raleigh and Kit Marlow, among others, and a courtier to Elizabeth I.
They create a new life in London, while Diana searches for a teacher, and Matthew continues to try to come to terms with his own internal demons. They also continue to search for Ashmole 782, and try not to do anything that will materially change the future, which is a big challenge, given who they are.
This book focuses more directly on Diana and Matthew's love story, as they both slowly and with many difficult missteps, become more capable of trusting one another and accepting that despite the fact that they *shouldn't* be together, they are together, and both of them want to be together.
That doesn't, of course, change the fact that many, maybe even most of the rest of the world, present, past and future, would rather they weren't, and many of the characters from the first book as well as new ones here show up in the story making various attempts to rip them apart.
But the story isn't just about Diana and Matthew in love, anymore than the first book was. Deborah Harkness is quite obviously a devoted lover of history, philosophy, art, science, politics and many other things, and all of these are woven skillfully into the larger story in such a natural way, you might almost forget that you are reading fiction. That makes this so much more than just a paranormal fiction or romance story. I consider this as much historical fiction as many other books I've read, even though, yes, it has witches, vampires and daemons in it.
Both Diana and Matthew are able to come to terms with things in their lives that have created scars in their present, and the reader really feels a sense of vicarious closure for both of them as we watch them heal past wounds so they will be strong enough - both on their own and together - to face the battle they know lies ahead.
I utterly loved this book! Many times, I went back and re-read passages because they were so wonderful. If you read "A Discovery of Witches" and liked it, you must go get book two immediately. The only down-side is that we now have to wait however many months it will take for Harkness to write and publish the final installment in Diana and Matthew's story. I can't wait!!