Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

15 Jul

Cover: Shadow of Night by Deborah HarknessMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a worthwhile followup to A Discovery of Witches.

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Shortly after Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont timewalk to London, 1590, they discover that the past may not provide a safe haven after all. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy Matthew Roydon, the vampire falls back in step with a group of radicals known as the School of Night who share dangerous ideas about God, science, and man. Many of his friends are unruly daemonsn – the creative minds of the age who walk the fine line between genius and madness – including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot. Matthew, himself, is expected to continue to spy for Queen Elizabeth, which puts him in close contact with London’s cutthroat underworld.

Together, Matthew and Diana scour the bookstalls and alchemical laboratories of London where they follow the elusive trail of Ashmole 782 – and search for the witch who will teach Diana to control her powers

It’s fairly different book than its predecessor, largely since it is primarily set in a very different time and place. In many ways, this is a historical novel, and it succeeds very well at this. It’s about the small details of life in Shakeseare’s England (and yes, he and his peers figure into the story!)

There’s a richness in the layers of historical information, the magical world created for these books, and a modern woman attempting to integrate them. This book (like the earlier one) feels like it is written by a smart woman, about a smart woman, for an audience that includes smart women.

The characters are also well constructed, and I found them interesting, if not always relatable or likable.

In particular, I still don’t see Matthew’s appeal, although I understand him much better now. The books explores the tension between him as a man of the time he was born in, a man of all the times he has lived through, a man of science and modern sensibilities, and as not just a vampire but a leader of vampires makes for an interesting character, even if not one that I’d find attractive.

Diana has a balancing act as well, being a witch that was raised with no apparent power of her own, a modern academic, a student learning about her unusual flavor of witchcraft, wife of a powerful vampire, all while trying to fit into life in a much earlier era. This makes for an interesting combination. In spite of being even more intriguing, I think I related to her even less here than in A Discovery of Witches. It didn’t matter, I still wanted to keep reading.

The action moved a bit slowly for most of the book, and surprisingly little happened, given the length.  The book seemed to be more about setting and world-building, which are interesting in their own right.

All in all, this was a successful story, and I’m looking forward to the third book.  I’m expecting it to have more action, and build on the base that the first two books in the series created for it.

Thank you to Viking for giving me access to Shadow of Night via NetGalley so I could read and review it!

1 Comment

Posted by on July 15, 2012 in books, reviews


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One response to “Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

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