Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness Review: Time travel gets confusing

October 20, 2012 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, Books, Reviews

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness Review: Time travel gets confusingShadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #2
Published by Headline on July 10, 2012
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical, Paranormal Romance
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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.

I had high hopes for this book after hearing about all the interesting places Diana Bishop (witch and historian) and Matthew (her vampire husband) would visit using time travel. Unfortunately, what resulted in between the hefty 600 pages, was a lot of frustration, boredom, and just a general feeling of “make it stop”.

The Discovery of Witches, the first in the series, had so much potential but just ended up having too much of a resemblance to Twilight and too much irrelevant waffle. Shadow of Night is even worse in that regard. While the Twilight veins have disappeared here, Shadow of Night not only capitalises on the worst frustrations of the first book, but adds its own as well.

Where we left off in The Discovery of Witches was Diana and Matthew heading to the past to find a witchy tutor for her powers, and to uncover the Ashmore 982 manuscript.

But when you pick up Shadow of Night, its best you forget where we were, the time travel elements, segregated world of witches, vampires and daemons, witch powers, and that snobby and possessive Matthew that you know (in other words, everything that was good about the novel). For you’ll be thrust into the 16th Century with a bunch of historical characters and a bunch of new names that only history majors would recognise.

Both Diana and Matthew are also strangely different in this novel, and for the worse as well. Diana’s “daftness” and complete stubbornness to listen to anyone who makes sense (including Matthew who is only looking after her best interests) plagues the entire novel. Matthew’s snobbery, distance, possessiveness and all of that are emphasised too. These people just refuse to listen to each other, which is probably why they are perfect(ly annoying) together.

If you thought Discovery of Witches was too long and could be condensed into more relevant scenes, be prepared to feel that again here. For the first half of the book, our duo decide to sightsee, meet Matthew’s old colleagues and friends, and gallavant around olden day Europe without remembering what they were there for to begin with. That in itself, means the book is way too long to begin with.

With the authors flowery, descriptive writing that is well suited to historical fiction, I just feel like the time spent in 16th Century Prague, London, and Oxfordshire was a big let down. You’d think it would be incredibly atmospheric conjuring up images of the Elizabethan era, but all you’ll get is some old Pope hitting on Diana, Matthew’s daemon lover/friend trying to steal away Diana, Diana’s fitting into old gowns and wobbly handwriting and Matthew helping Queen Elizabeth with her gum disease.

In today’s society, we’re subject to lots of information overload. Reading this book, I feel like I’ve been crammed with information coming out of my ears that will never benefit me whatsoever. Not with my daily life, not with my knowledge of history, and certainly not with the plot of the book. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few good scenes such as meeting Matthew’s father Philippe, and finally hearing about the origins of the manuscript and Diana’s powers. But you’d be wading through lots of nonsense to get there, which isn’t worth it.

So the moral of the story is, if you love historical fiction and the finer details, you’d probably love this book. But if you prefer books that actually have a straight plot, or if you were already frustrated with Discovery of Witches, look elsewhere. I read this for a buddy read here on Goodreads (spoilers).

Rating: 2 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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