23 July 2012

Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Note: This review assumes you've read the first book in Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy. I reviewed A Discovery of Witches in May 2012.

Shadow of Night begins moments after the first book in the trilogy ends. We are taken back to the 1500s, where Diana and Matthew plan to search for the missing pages of the alchemical book that Diana found in the Bodleian Library. They also hope to find a witch who can help Diana learn about her personal powers and how to control them. Once these tasks have been completed, she should (they hope!) have the ability to return to the 21st century, bringing Matthew with her.

Deborah Harkness has avoided the sophomore slump, and Shadow of Night is a multipronged success. First, I loved the historical details of Elizabethan England and the literary, religious, and cultural references. Matthew hangs out with an illustrious crowd, and although I was familiar with most of the historical characters, I didn't know that some of them were really deamons and witches.

Harkness does a brilliant job re-creating the late 16th century. We learn about the fashion and food of the times as well as the sights and sounds of life in the city. We get a peek at the everyday life of people who will make a mark on history, and we also meet people whose names were forgotten only a few generations after their deaths. Its fun to see how easily Matthew reverts and how difficult it is for Diana to adjust.

The novel also shines when it comes to some of the sticky problems of time travel. Harkness has fine solutions to such questions as, Can there be more than one Matthew at the same time? We also gain a much clearer sense of his more hidden side when we see how he reacts to meeting up with friends who died more than 400 years ago. As Matthew explains his contemporary situation to Diana, we learn some very interesting facts about the vampire's life.

Naturally Matthew has grown and changed over the centuries, and his friends sense he is not quite the same. After all, in their reality, the vampire is only a couple of days older than when they last saw him, not centuries older. Thus another problem Diana and Matthew face is deciding to whom they tell the truth of their time walking and how to explain Diana.

Diana too must struggle with learning how to behave, including how to dress, how to run a household, and how not to be a walking anachronism. I was particularly pleased to see Diana come into her own once she accepted her heritage. Of course she still has to rely on Matthew to guide her through the strange new world of the past, but she has found her inner strength and is no longer a helpless pawn.

Although Diana and Matthew's mission is clear from the start of the book, Harkness throws in several surprises. Thus the plot, while consistent with the story line, also takes us places that are unexpected. As well, we don't yet know whether the pair has changed their 21st-century present or have changed their future.

If you loved A Discovery of Witches, you won't be disappointed by Shadow of Night. It's a great mix of historical, paranormal, and thriller fiction spiced up with a little romance. When I finished the book, I had one of those "Oh no!" moments: What do you mean I have to wait another year or so before I find out what happens next?

The unabridged audio edition of Shadow of Night (Penguin Audio; 24 hr, 30 min) was read by Jennifer Ikeda, who also read the first book. She not only did an impressive job with the multiple accents and languages but created consistent and distinctive characterizations. She had better be available to read book three.

Shadow of Night is an Indie Next pick for July 2012. For more on Deborah Harkness, visit her website or follow her on twitter.

Buy Shadow of Night at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Penguin USA / Viking 2012
ISBN-13: 9780670023486
Rating: B+
Source: review (see review policy)
t © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sandy Nawrot 7/23/12, 6:51 AM  

I can't tell you how excited I am to read these books. I have the audio of this one, thanks to Penguin, but so far have had issues with the audio of the first (but I think Heather is putting it on a stick for me). I have very high expectations!

Farin 7/23/12, 8:46 AM  

"Deborah Harkness has avoided the sophomore slump."

This is the exact sentence I've been using to describe this book. Such a joy to read, and you could tell that she had such a great time bringing these historical personalities, who are clearly very dear to her, to life. The wait for Book 3 is going to feel like an eternity!

Jenn's Bookshelves 7/23/12, 8:49 AM  

I'm listening to this one now and I agree that Harkness has hit it out of the ballpark again. A truly delightful audio book!

Sarah (The Brazen Bookworm) 7/23/12, 11:44 AM  

I thought Ikeda was fabulous as well. Her accents were awesome, and she was more than competent at managing all the characters. I also enjoyed watching Diana navigate the culture and mores of Elizabethan England - I loved all the clothing details and can't even imagine having to wear all that stuff. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book either!

Zibilee 7/23/12, 11:59 AM  

Yes, yes, yes! I can't wait to read this one, and just bought it in hardcover for my collection, though I will probably be trading with Sandy to listen to her copy of the second while she listens to the first. This was my FAVORITE book of last year, and I can't wait to see what becomes of all my old friends. Man, I have been waiting for this book to come out for the longest time, and now that it's here, I am just so thrilled! Excellent review today!

Anonymous,  7/23/12, 12:18 PM  

I'm still having those Oh no! moments. I finished it yesterday and have been sad ever since. And I don't know what to follow it up with!

Daryl 7/23/12, 12:53 PM  

I loved the review of the first book so much I ordered both and now I have to wade through a ton of other books before I get to read it so maybe by then the 3rd will be out .. I did that with Hunger Games .. got to read all three one after the other .. cool .. thanks for the review(s)

bermudaonion 7/23/12, 1:59 PM  

My sister is really looking forward to this one.

Tif Sweeney 7/23/12, 2:19 PM  

I cannot wait to read this one!! Loved A Discovery of Witches!

Julie P. 7/23/12, 3:37 PM  

Still need to get to this one. I feel like I say that all the time when I leave you a comment!

Jenners 7/23/12, 9:22 PM  

Glad to hear she avoided the sophmore slump. I'm looking forward to checking this one out . I may listen to it on audio.

Heather 7/24/12, 11:06 AM  

Oh, how I wish I could have enjoyed this one as much as you did! I just had so many problems with it. I wonder if it was my mood....

Jennifer Ikeda did do a fantastic job, she's got a new fan in me. If she doesn't read the third, I don't know what I'll do!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 7/24/12, 11:37 AM  

I have both of these in audio and from the reviews I'm reading it sounds like I'll enjoy listening to them. Now I just need more listening hours.

Carrie K. 7/24/12, 8:42 PM  

I'm so glad to hear that it stands up to the first! It's been over a year since I read Discovery - do you think I'll have any problems getting back into it, or should I do a reread to refresh my memory?

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