Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

I enjoyed this sequel!

Synopsis: (from goodreads)
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’ cliffhanger 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.

Like a Buffy the Vampire slayer for adults, the All Souls Trilogy's second installment was full of vampires, witches, demons and the humans who are ignorant of their existence.

Rich in history, and a cast of characters straight out of a Shakespearean play, Diana meets the famed School of Night, which include Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh.  Also, what good is traveling to 16th century England unless you're going to meet the Queen of all Queens?  Of course Diana meets Queen Elizabeth I.

Going back in time to escape their pursuers did not do much to avoid danger, as it seems witches everywhere, at any time, are at risk of burning at the stake.  It also seems Matthew's past self was actually a spy for Elizabeth I, as well as a member of the Congregation, a group responsible for the slaughtering of witches.

As much as I loved A Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, the sequel felt a bit like a filler novel.  Considering this "filler" was nearly 600 pages, you can understand why I'm a little disappointed. There were scenes that felt unnecessary and repetitive, as well as too much time explaining the dress of the time, without actually giving us a good picture of the grandeur. I felt the discomfort of Diana's clothes, but not the beauty. (I kept trying to imagine Gwenyth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, but instead I kept thinking of iron straight-jackets with four-inch thick fluffy turtlenecks.) Yes, we get it, Diana is tall and she talks funny. Mid-way through the book, I forgot why they were there to begin with, and why, if any, there was a need for Christopher Marlowe, et al, other than to name-drop and get literary geeks (like me) excited.

Enough for the negative, now for the positive. As much as I rolled my eyes at the famous people Matthew happened to be friends with in the 15th century, yes, I geeked out over the mere mention of William Shakespeare.  Aside from his literary friends, Matthew's father, Phillipe, was the stand-out character for me in this book.  So complex and mysterious, I am hoping to hear more from him in the third book (even though, it's not very likely).

 Once Diana found a suitable tutor, the magic stole my attention and I wanted more of it - the weaving, the familiars, the coven. I also loved how family members left in the present were attentive to any subtle changes Diana and Matthew in the past were having on the future.  I wouldn't have minded more of these glimpses into what the rest of the family was up to in the 21st century, but I'm sure we'll find out all about it in the final book!

Note on the Audiobook:
I wish I had listened to the first book on audio!  Jennifer Ikeda is wonderful with voices, dialects, and mood. She added so much more to this book, I'm afraid I would not have enjoyed it as much as I did if it weren't for her. This is one situation where a book could have fallen short for me, but the audio added that certain something to make it special. Bravo!

Even though Shadow of Night did not knock my socks off the way A Discovery of Witches did, it was still an entertaining book, and a wonderful audiobook.  I'm looking forward to listening to the final book in the trilogy, whenever that may be!

Book Extras:
Deborah Harkness website, Facebook, Twitter

About the Book:

  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023486

About the Audiobook:
by Deborah Harkness (Author), Jennifer Ikeda (Narrator)

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 24 hours and 30 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
  • Release Date: July 10, 2012

*Disclosure:  I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
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