Lauren's Reviews > Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
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Jul 14, 2012

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Read in July, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I was fairly eager to read Shadow of Night after reading Discovery of Witches. I didn't hate it. I didn't love it. While I certainly had my qualms about the first book book (you can read my review to see about that), my review of Shadow of Night is equally ambivalent, but for different reasons.


First, the good:

- Harkness finally utilizes her skills as an Elizabethan historian for more than painting a sentimental picture of Oxford. Taking her characters into Elizabethan England was smart because it allowed her to create a more vibrant setting than before, borrowing from a vast knowledge of tiny facts and details to transport the reader to 1590s Oxford and London. I especially enjoyed reading about Diana's wardrobe and her initial difficulties mastering the dialects of the time.

- In Shadow, Harkness creates a version of Diana that is MUCH more likable than the first. Unlike the first book, she is not ceaselessly crying, nor does she seem as attracted to Matthew's more Edward Cullen-ish controlling tendencies. Instead, she creates a woman who is much more believable as a strong, capable, bright academic--one who is willing to stand up for what she wants and who doesn't let her husband bully her as he did in the first book.

- The witchcraft writing is definitely stronger in this book than the last. I enjoyed the weaving elements, if the time travel was a bit weak. We finally get to see Diana demonstrate some mastery of her craft and learn from witches who can do way cooler stuff than either of her aunts. The firedrake could be a seriously fun character in the future. Although Harkness takes a while to get to these scenes in the book (about halfway through, actually), once she does, the plot really starts to take off.

- Oddly, the fathers are the best new characters in the book, which is sad because they are both dead in the present time. Steven Proctor is delightfully foppish, and I love that he takes the time to embarrass the hell out of his vampire son-in-law. I wish there was a way we'd see him again, because he might be my new favorite character. Phillipe is also a vibrant new character whom I like most because of his arrogance. He is larger than life in a way I think Harkness meant Matthew to be in the first book, but didn't quite attain. I'm sad he won't reappear in the third book (at least, it's unlikely unless somehow Diana and Matthew changed time enough to save his life...hmm...not impossible).

The bad:

- Harkness still needs to work on her character building. A lot people have remarked that they are not really in love with the characters, and a big part of that is because of their inconsistencies. Diana's fear of her own magic made a little sense when she was a crybaby (although that never really jibed with her success as an academic--I'm in that world, and it's competitive). Now that she's abandoned the tears for the second book, it makes no sense that she is still scared of learning about her own magic and the world from whence she comes. She's a HISTORIAN OF ALCHEMY, for pete's sake! She's the definition of someone who should be bending over backwards to learn how to use magic.

- Matthew, on the other hand, seems to fade into the shadow after which he is nicknamed. Despite the fact that we learn so much more of his backstory in this book, it often felt like he was a spectator in the scenes he was in rather than a protagonist. As a result, the more emotionally wrenching scenes between him and Diana seem to come out of nowhere. He was a crabby old man for the first half of the book, often absent on unexplained "spy work," and then suddenly he turned back into Will Darcy. His dialogue often came out of nowhere, and his body never seemed to do more than stand at windows and run his hands through his hair.

- "The moon between my thighs." Enough said.

- Too many of the secondary characters collapse into one another. The School of Night all essentially had the same personalities, the most irritating of which was Kit Marlowe (I still don't understand why Matthew didn't just kill him). All of the secondary vampires talked the same and looked the same, male or female. Francoise, Pierre, Gallowglass, Hancock, Benjamin...does it really matter? Just write "INTIMIDATING VAMPIRE" and be done with it.

All in all, I think your ability to enjoy this book and the series as a whole depends on your willingness to cast a blind eye at the stuff you don't like on a regular basis. For me, the escape of the story provides enough to want to read it and finish the series. I mostly just want to know what the writing is in the mysterious book. I also wouldn't mind meeting their kids. But if you're a stickler for things like pretty prose, stable character development, and sensible time-travel writing, this may not be the book for you.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Erin While I love the story line in these two books, I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me about's the lack of character development! I've never really loved Matthew, and it took me a while to start caring about what happened to Diana. I always fall in love with the characters in books, that's one of the reasons I love to read. Book 2 took me almost a month to get through and I usually fly through books. I first thought my problem was that I wasn't familiar enough with Elizabethan England to keep all the members of the School of Night straight in my head but your review made me realize its because they are all too similar.

Despite the flaws, I'm curious to see how the story ends so we shall see what she does with book 3!

Lauren Erin wrote: "While I love the story line in these two books, I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me about's the lack of character development! I've never really loved Matthew, and it took me a w..."

I completely agree with that. I wonder if she took too little time to hone her character development when writing this book--I believe she wrote it in about a year, which is VERY short for a 500+ page novel.

Jamie Long Competely agree that the characterization wasn't fully developed - I think that's what bothers me about the books thus far I just couldn't narrow it down

Victoria See, I immediately fell for Gallowglass and Ysabeau! I think this book is at it's strongest when Harkness describes the nuances of Elizabethan life.

Thanks for pointing out- I actually LIKE Diana in this book, and felt that when they were in Sept Tours, Matthew was far more involved.

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