Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

OK, so I'm about 12 books behind on my reviews here. I'm desperately hoping to catch-up this week. I couldn't wait to talk about The Second book in the All-Souls Trilogy though - Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. The first novel in the trilogy is "Discovery of Witches" - if you haven't read that novel yet, stop here, do not collect $200 and go get that novel first. You cannot read this series out of order.

I actually spent last week (pre SoN release) re-listening to Discovery of Witches. I wanted to catchup with Matthew and Diana and get back into the magic of the storytelling.

The Audible Publisher's Summary:

"Together we lifted our feet and stepped into the unknown." (From the thrilling sequel to the New York Times best seller A Discovery of Witches)
Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel 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.
Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches' cliff-hanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew's old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.
Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

I found Shadow of Night quite a bit darker than Discovery of Witches in theme and subject matter. Naturally historical figures such as William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I and Christopher Marlowe are involved - as are witch hunts, espionage and more vampire games. Part of the 'darkness' is a result of the time period (1590 AD) the other part is the character of Matthew who was charming and princely in Discovery of Witches and controlling, jealous and somewhat abusive in Shadow of Night. There were times where I was uncomfortable in the "I'll always love you Matthew" responses to violence and verbal abuse. It's not an author's place to make me feel comfortable for an entire 24+ hour novel - and while Diana's response for the time was certainly accurate, the 21st century woman should not have been so spineless and dependent on the whims of her husband (and that statement is common sense vs feminism). Let's not send yet another mixed message to women about abuse.

Despite the above objections, I did enjoy Shadow of Night and I have plans to re-listen (or perhaps actually READ) the novel. No spoilers here (of course) but the Shadow of Night ends a bit like the Discovery of Witches. There are a few closed loops - but the large plot strings remain tangled and several new ones are left dangling. I suppose we'll have to wait another year and a half for the final trilogy installment!

Shadow of Night was written by Deborah Harkness; narrated by Jennifer Ikeda; published by Penguin Audio. Shadow of Night (unabridged) has a running time of 24 hours 30 minutes and an Audible release date of July 10th, 2012.

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