The Black Bird Oracle (All Souls Series #5)

The Black Bird Oracle (All Souls Series #5)

by Deborah Harkness

Narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

Unabridged — 17 hours, 3 minutes

The Black Bird Oracle (All Souls Series #5)

The Black Bird Oracle (All Souls Series #5)

by Deborah Harkness

Narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

Unabridged — 17 hours, 3 minutes

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

The path from A Discovery of Witches to The Black Bird Oracle has been a long, twisted, and delightful one. Prepare to discover even more layers to the world of magic and dark academia we already love.

Diana Bishop journeys to the darkest places within herself-and her family history-in the highly anticipated fifth novel of the beloved #1 New York Times bestselling All Souls series.

The Black Bird Oracle deftly explores the nexus of memory, history, and parenthood-the magic, pain, and promises mothers pass onto their children.”-Jodi Picoult

Deborah Harkness first introduced the world to Diana Bishop, an Oxford scholar and witch, and vampire geneticist Matthew de Clermont in A Discovery of Witches. Drawn to each other despite long-standing taboos, these two otherworldly beings found themselves at the center of a battle for a lost, enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Since then, they have fallen in love, traveled to Elizabethan England, dissolved the Covenant between the three species, and awoken the dark powers within Diana's family line.

Now, Diana and Matthew receive a formal demand from the Congregation: They must test the magic of their seven-year-old twins, Pip and Rebecca. Concerned with their safety and desperate to avoid the same fate that led her parents to spellbind her, Diana decides to forge a different path for her family's future and answers a message from a great-aunt she never knew existed, Gwyneth Proctor, whose invitation simply reads: It's time you came home, Diana.

On the hallowed ground of Ravenswood, the Proctor family home, and under the tutelage of Gwyneth, a talented witch grounded in higher magic, a new era begins for Diana: a confrontation with her family's dark past and a reckoning for her own desire for even greater power-if she can let go, finally, of her fear of wielding it.

In this stunning new novel, grand in scope, Deborah Harkness deepens the beloved world of All Souls with powerful new magic and long-hidden secrets, and the path Diana finds at Ravenswood leads to the most consequential moments yet in this cherished series.


* This audiobook edition comes with a downloadable PDF including a family tree.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Black Bird Oracle ushers in a thrilling new era for Diana, an Oxford scholar and powerful witch, as she navigates marriage to the vampire Matthew and motherhood, while reckoning with dark secrets from her family’s storied past. There’s no better time to get swept up in the romance, adventure, and magic of the All Souls world, beginning with A Discovery of Witches.Bustle
 
Excitement is high as the release date for The Black Bird Oracle approaches. . . . It’s a chapter of Diana’s story that longtime fans won’t want to miss.Screenrant, 15 Most Anticipated Fantasy Books Coming Out the Rest of 2024

The Black Bird Oracle was well worth the wait: Not only does it reunite us with the powerful love story of Diana and Matthew, it deftly explores the nexus of memory, history, and parenthood—the magic, pain, and promises mothers pass onto their children. Harkness’s lush prose makes a fantastical world real enough to touch; her characters are so real they feel like family.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult

“Haunting in every way. This is a story thick with family secrets, human heartache, and the kind of deep magic only Harkness can conjure. You will be enchanted.”—Leigh Bardugo, bestselling author of The Familiar

“Marked by Harkness’s deft evocations and appreciation of learning, this is a book to treasure. The portentous ending, rife with new story threads and threats, will leave readers hoping that she doesn’t wait another six years to continue the series.”Library Journal, starred review

Library Journal

★ 06/01/2024

Harkness returns after a six-year hiatus in her "All Souls" series, whose most recent outing was 2018's Time's Convert. She picks up the story as witch and professor Diana Bishop is wrapping up the spring semester at Yale. She and her family—her vampire husband (knight/geneticist Matthew) and their twin Bright Born children—are preparing to head to Oxford. When an unkindness of ravens descends, carrying a magical ring and a message, their plans change. It's time for Diana to meet her father's side of the family, under the leadership of Gwyneth Proctor, an extraordinary witch of great knowledge. The visit carries with it promise and peril, as it pulls Diana into another stream of magic and a new realm of danger—a risk to both her and her children. Harkness balances the novel's threats with deep joy, filling the book with new characters (many of them ghosts), the power of nature, and the connection of family. Affirming Harkness's skill as a storyteller, the 464 pages unfold at a delightful speed, constantly moving the plot forward but also offering a lovely lull that creates a sensory experience; readers will get lost in the novel's details—magic camp flags, the mysterious Ravens' Wood, variously flavored teas, and the history of the Salem witch trials. Harkness is equally good at characterization. She puts a large cast in play while also reaching across the series and wonderfully blending new characters into a family that spans centuries, secrets, and expertises. VERDICT Marked by Harkness's deft evocations and appreciation of learning, this is a book to treasure. The portentous ending, rife with new story threads and threats, will leave readers hoping that she doesn't wait another six years to continue the series.—Neal Wyatt

Product Details

BN ID: 2940160443294
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 07/16/2024
Series: All Souls Series , #5
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 200,119

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

In every soul, there is a place reserved for Shadow.

Mine was safely hidden, tucked in a blind spot at the corners of my memory, under a hollow bruise that I thought had healed long ago.

Then the ravens came to New Haven, carrying an invitation that neither Shadow nor I could refuse.

It was a Friday in late May when the invitation arrived.

“Hey, Professor Bishop! I just put your last mail delivery through the slot!”

I’d been woolgathering on the familiar route home from my office at Yale, listening with half of my attention to Becca’s excited chatter while the rest of my mind drifted. I hadn’t noticed that we’d arrived at the ornate iron gate that guarded our house on Orange Street, or that our regular mail carrier, Brenda, was just leaving the property.

“Thanks, Brenda,” I said, giving her a limp smile. The heat was withering. It was always like this in New Haven around graduation time, which led to frazzled tempers, damp academic regalia, and long lines for iced lattes at the city’s many coffee shops.

“You must be excited about getting back to England, Becca,” Brenda said. She was already wearing her USPS bucket hat and shorts, prepared for New Haven’s warmer temperatures and sky-high humidity.

“I am.” Becca hopped from one foot to the next to prove it. “It’s Tamsy’s first trip and I get to show her everything.”

Tamsy was a recent addition to the family: one of the historical dolls that were all the rage among the thirteen-and-under set. Marcus and his mate, Phoebe, had chosen the colonial era doll for Becca because of her fondness for Marcus’s house in Hadley, and her delight in the stories he told about growing up there in the 1760s and 1770s. Though she had been given a different name by the manufacturer, Becca had rebaptized her the moment she had seen the doll’s green eyes and red hair peeking out from the box’s clear, round window.

Since receiving the doll, Becca’s active imagination had been fully engaged with Tamsy and her world. She came with a variety of outfits and accessories that helped Becca bring her to life, including a horse named Penny. Tamsy was well supplied with home furnishings, too. Matthew added to them with a small replica of the Windsor chair at Marcus’s house that had once belonged to Grand-père Philippe and a Tamsy-sized version of a painted Hadley chest like the one Phoebe used to store household linens. It was fitted with a tiny lock, and Becca had already packed Tamsy’s clothes, her schoolbooks, her quill pen and ink pot, and her collection of hats for the journey to England.

Brenda gave Tamsy, who was hanging from Becca’s hand, a wave. She turned to me. “You must be excited to get back to your research, too.”

At the end of every school year, Matthew and I would take the children to England, where we spent the summer months at our house in Woodstock. It was only a few miles outside Oxford, which put me within easy reach of the Bodleian Library and made it possible for Matthew to work in his quiet Oxford University laboratory, with no colleagues or graduate students to interrupt him. Becca and her brother, Pip, had acres of land to roam, hundreds of trees to climb, and a house filled with curious treasures and books to occupy them during the inevitable summer downpours. There were trips to France to see Matthew’s mother, Ysabeau, over long, lazy weekends, and a chance to see more of Marcus and Phoebe, who would spend part of their summer in London.

I couldn’t wait to get on the plane and put Yale, New Haven, and the spring semester behind me. The prospect of a new research project focused on the wives and sisters of early Royal Society members beckoned, and I was eager to get my hands on rare books and manuscripts.

“I expect you have lots to do before tomorrow,” Brenda said.

She had no idea how much. We weren’t packed, the houseplants were still inside and not neatly arrayed on the back porch so the neighbors could water them, and I had at least three loads of laundry that needed doing before we could leave for the summer.

“I double-checked your mail hold. You’re ready for takeoff as far as the New Haven post office is concerned,” Brenda said, drawing our conversation to a close.

“Thank you,” I said, removing Tamsy from Becca’s grip and sticking her, legs first, in the top of my tote along with the campus mail.

“You and Pip have fun, Becca, and I’ll see you in August,” Brenda said, adjusting the thick strap of her mailbag.

“Bye!” Becca said, waving at Brenda’s retreating form.

I stroked her shiny hair, blue-black and iridescent as a crow’s wing. Becca resembled Matthew so closely—all long lines and contrasts, with pale skin and heavy brows. They were alike in temperament, too, with their confident reserve that could erupt into strong emotions in a heartbeat. It was Pip who resembled me. Comfortable with expressing his feelings, and quick to cry, he had my sturdy build, fair hair glinting with strands of copper, and smattering of freckles across his nose.

“We do have lots to do, peanut,” I said. “Starting with taking care of Ardwinna and Apollo and sorting all this mail.”

After that, the house would need to be put in apple-pie order—a daunting task. My little house on Court Street had been far too small to contain a vampire, a witch, two Bright Born children, a griffin, and a deerhound. Matthew’s son Marcus had offered us his palatial home on Orange Street instead. He’d bought it just before the Civil War, when he was first studying medicine at Yale and mahogany and formal entertaining were very much in fashion. Every surface in the house was polished, carved, or both. It was a nightmare to keep clean and the spacious rooms filled all too quickly with the clutter of modern living.

Despite its vast size and formal appearance, the house had proved to be surprisingly well suited to family living, with expansive covered porches that provided a place for the children to play in rainy weather, a private backyard where Philip’s griffin familiar, Apollo, and my Scottish deerhound, Ardwinna, could join in the twins’ games, and numerous downstairs rooms that had once been allocated to residents according to gender and function. At first, Marcus’s house seemed too grand for our small clutch of vampires and witches, but families have a way of expanding to fit the space allotted to them. What we thought would be a temporary stay had turned into years of permanent residence.

Becca, who was attuned to my changing moods, felt my anxiety rise.

“Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll help you.” Out of her hip pocket, Becca pulled a Yale-blue kazoo that she’d found in the office, hoping to rally my flagging spirits by piping us the last few feet home. The kazoo’s strange, bleating squawk disturbed the birds settled in the nearby trees. They took flight with an irritated flutter of wings, the murmuration of dark shapes and raucous cries protesting this interruption in their sleepy afternoon routine.

I shielded my eyes, mesmerized by the swirling, attenuated black cloud of birds that rose and fell on the damp currents of air. Becca was also rapt at the sight, her eyes wide and filled with wonder.

A single bird broke from the formation, its shadow falling over our clasped hands. The outline of the bird’s head and curved beak extended onto the walkway, pointing the way to the front door.

A sudden chill fell, and I shivered. Curious as to what had caused the drop in temperature, I looked up, expecting to see clouds blotting out the bright sun.

Instead, all the color had leached out of the world. The mellow stucco of the house, the green canopy of the trees, the splashes of blue from tall stalks of delphinium and bearded iris in the perennial borders—everything was reduced to gray scale like a washed-out photograph of foggy London taken in the 1940s. My perspective was altered, too, the house looking too tall and wide, and the trees too short. The clear tang of petrichor replaced the usual green scents of summer, along with a sulforous note of brimstone. The usual sounds of the neighborhood—traffic, the call of the birds, the hum of lawn mowers—were all too loud, as was the drumming of my heart when a wave of the uncanny crashed over me.

Power, prickling and ominous, flooded my veins in response to the surge of magical energy that held us in its colorless shroud. I drew Becca toward me, sheltering her with my body.

The solitary bird that had been gliding overhead plummeted to the ground in front of us, wings outstretched and its head bent to the side at an angle that told me its neck had snapped on impact. Its curved, ebony beak and the ruffle of feathers at the neck told me this was a raven.

A rustle of birds’ wings filled my ears as the raven’s companions settled on the branches of the nearby tree, dark spots in the ghostly world that stood out in sharp relief like a string of silhouettes cut from black paper. There were not just a few ravens, but dozens.

Everything I knew about the significance of ravens—magical, mythical, and alchemical—raced through my mind. Messengers between the dead and the living, ravens often symbolized the first step in the alchemical transformation that led to the philosopher’s stone.

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