Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jenn's Review: Shadow of Night

Summary:  A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Drawn to one another despite longstanding taboos, and in pursuit of Diana’s spellbound powers, the two embark upon a time-walking journey.  Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into  Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night.  The mission is to locate a witch to tutor  Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy. Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past. ~blurb

Review:  While my love of the All Souls Trilogy hasn't abated, I will say that Shadow of Night was much slower going than I expected.  Because the character's have traveled back in time, I am suddenly reading historical fiction, which means I'm a little out of my element.  I don't usually enjoy historical fiction unless it's a topic I am well versed in so that I can sort the fact from the fiction.  Luckily, Deborah Harkness is an erudite historian which is valuable to the authenticity of the plot, however it also bogged things down considerably.

Although it isn't necessary to have a rudimentary knowledge of the politics and culture of  Elizabethan England, it certainly helps.  At times I found the need to go and look up bits of European 16th century history just to make sure I was getting all the references.  While I enjoyed getting to know the School of Night, I had trouble keeping all of them straight, and I missed all of the characters that were left behind in the present.  There were several chapters that flashed back to the present, but I craved more.  The one character I loved meeting was Matthew's father.  Philippe sheds a brilliant and entirely new light on Matthew and the de Clermonts.  I loved every moment of this part of the story.  (There is also another surprise character that I was glad to get to know.)  Watching Diana and Matthew learn to function as a couple was wonderful, and their moments together made the entire novel.

For the most part, though, I felt that Diana and Matthew lost focus of their mission and many times I found myself chiding the characters to get a move on.  So many months are spent educating Diana to keep her from seeming out of place that I was relieved when she finally found a teacher for witchcraft.  Unfortunately, Ms. Harkness spends very little time on Diana's lessons so, sadly, much of the magic goes by the wayside.  I also got a little lost in Diana's alchemical studies which were interesting, but perhaps too detailed and too much plot exposition.

When the return to the present arrives, it is a year after they left, and I'm not sure I understand why they didn't return to the moment they left, save for plot advancement.  If this was meant to be the climax of the novel, it rather missed the mark.  Much has happened in their absence, but very little is explained.  I would have preferred a shorter visit to the past and a longer reunion at home.  I know there is another novel yet to come that will encompass this but I felt a little cheated.  (For example, I really wanted to see Gallowglass' reunion with the de Clermont's in the present.)  Another factor that contributes to this, I think, is that the novel ends with a chapter in the Old World two years after the de Clermont's departure.  While this gives us perspective on historical characters and the title of the book, it seemed like a bit of a let down after all that occurs.

It is a testament to how much I truly adored A Discovery of Witches, that Deborah Harkness could get me to read an historical fiction novel.  While Shadow of Night had it's faults, it is a huge building block in the All Souls Trilogy and I can't wait to see the repercussions from the time walking and will be happy to be back in the present in the third book.

Final Take:  4.0/5

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4 comments :

Kaley August 22, 2012 at 10:19 PM  

You pretty much thought the same things I did - but were able to put them much more eloquently! As much as I liked the final chapter, it was more amusing than anything else. It did nothing for the story. I can't wait to see how it all wraps up! How much longer do we have to wait...?

Wren Doloro August 22, 2012 at 10:53 PM  

I wrote a review of it as well, and yup I support your perspective!

I'm hoping the third book wraps it up tight. But with less pages, oh please.

Jenn August 23, 2012 at 8:27 AM  

I wanted to love it as much as I did A Discovery of Witches, so maybe that put too much expectation on it. I could read a million pages if it was like the first book.

I have heard nothing about the release of book three, not even a title, so your guess is as good as mine.

Steph November 7, 2017 at 3:26 PM  

I just finished this and wonder if I missed a big section - why Sarah was crying. Did I miss the chapter or is it set up for the next book?

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