M's Reviews > Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
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's review
Jul 14, 2012

did not like it

** spoiler alert ** This book was unbearable. I wrote a really lengthy review then lost it before saving, but I have so many problems with this book that I honestly don't feel like writing them up again.

I'm just going to lay out some general reasons why you shouldn't read this book:

Most of the new characters are either boring or annoying. Matthew also becomes immensely annoying with his constant desire to keep secrets and treat her like she is incapable of understanding him.

If a character is annoying the author will make sure they appear often.

The treatment of time travel is so illogical that I can't look past it no matter how much I wanted to like this book. First, Matthew's former self simply disappears from the past when they arrive. This would imply that going back changes the past such that when they return, things will be dramatically different. They then proceed to do countless things that would seriously alter the future. Despite that, nothing appears wrong when they return way too late into the book (only two chapters of them back in the present). Add on top of that, the fact that they could have time traveled to another period the second the setting no longer seemed favorable but didn't was ridiculous. Instead, they proceed to do a massive number of unnecessary things that could have been avoided if any character in the story had simply been smart enough to remember that the main character can time travel whenever she wants to.

Furthermore, the book doesn't stay true to the characters. The fact that Matthew didn't kill Kit on multiple occasions throughout the book was completely untrue to the character. Especially the final time when he kidnaps Diana and talks about how he wants to cut out her eyes. Which further highlights how Harkness was fighting to find things to fill the pages when this book would have been better if it was shorter.

The main character may grow stronger in terms of controlling her power, but she remains mentally weak. That's fine for a first book, but it's a really bad sign for a second book. This lack of development also shows up through Matthew's constant withholding of the truth. On top of that, for some reason her magic is different when she travels back in time. The fact that the time travel likely caused this is mentioned often, but I still can't grasp why such a change was in any way necessary or for that matter desired for any reason beyond extending the plot when it was already so out of whack.

On top of that, the author didn't spend enough time making sure the plot made sense. There was no reason for them to stay in the 16th century. This isn't some "the portal will open only on this day so and so months from now" book. The main character can time travel whenever she wants to, to whatever time or place she wants to if she has the right items. The fact that they didn't leave makes about as much sense as the fact that she can't time travel to the present that she left so as to avoid any time from passing in the present. Instead, when they return roughly a year has passed. But, I guess that does enforce the trend of Harkless being consistent in her attempts to make sure that time travel makes absolutely no sense at all in this book.

Please do not read this book. Read the next one when it comes out. Put this at the end of the list. If you're desperate, it's okay for you to read it. If you're not, just don't.

This is only one of three books I have reviewed of the 250 on my read shelf. The rest I only rated. That is how much I dislike this book. I'm also going to remove it from my kindle and am legitimately weighing whether or not to permanently remove it from my kindle account so I never have to see it again.
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02/11/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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Crossfinn FYI, the main character cannot time travel "whenever she wants to" back to the future, because traveling to the future requires a specific kind of magic that she doesn't know how to do yet.

message 2: by M (new) - rated it 1 star

M I would first like to note that the post that follows was written only with the intent of responding to your claim and is not in any way meant as an attack on you personally. I'm glad that you liked the book. I wish that I could have liked it too, but I can't agree with your statement that she can't travel back to the future.

The way she uses time travel as a form of teleportation in the first book clearly shows that she can use her magic to travel to the present. On top of that, she practices time travel before the end of the first book to make sure she can go both ways, adding further proof that she can. For that matter, the idea that she wouldn't have figured out how to do something like that before traveling centuries into the past would just be another glaring hole in the character's mindset. And if she did know how to do that then traveled into the past and could no longer do it because her magic changed, that would just be another example of a desperate attempt to prolong the plot when they should have been back in the present half way into this book.

On top of that, another solution for how to time travel without having time pass arises even if she can only travel to the past or the present. All she would have to do is time travel to the present - which is one year after they left when they return - then time travel back one year to when they originally left. Problem solved.

I don't know which is worse: the idea that the main characters of this series have almost zero foresight and have serious mood disorders, the idea that the author forgot that people reading this book would expect some form of coherency, or the idea that the author was trying to torture her readers.

I'll likely read the last book; I liked the first book enough for that, and since it won't be another time piece the chance of a repeat is seriously decreased. Despite that, I did decide to permenantly delete this book from my kindle. I wouldn't want to be remembering any of it while I try to enjoy the final book in the trilogy.

Crossfinn Do you mean when Diana and Matthew took their trial run to Sept-Tours and back? Interesting. I'll have to think about that.

message 4: by Sue (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sue I agree with everything you said, M. She was timetraveling as a 3 year old for Pete's sake. I asked myself MANY times during this book, Why don't they just leave? And seriously, all those people in all those countries are simply going to forget Diana was there? They'll never mention it to 1590 Matthew when he wakes up from whatever coma he thinks he was in for 7 months? It was just stupid. Really stupid. You want to read a time travel book that really bends your brain but is done really well? The Time Traveler's Wife. That book worked and there were clear repurcussions (both good and bad) from time travel. It made sense. This was just a train wreck from the beginning.

message 5: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa I agree too. This is one of the worst books I ever read. I normally can read a book in 2 days this one took me 5. I really struggled to finished it. Even skipped some parts. I feel sometimes Harkness wrote things just to have a longer book. She could of cut this book in half. Too much details just stick to the story next time and get on with it already.

Caroline I remained interested enough in the book to read it all the way through. I didn't hate it as much as you did but I agree with many of the comments here. I thought that the author handled the time travel very poorly.

I thought maybe when Diana started her journal and it was found in modern times in a pile of books (wondering how that happened since she hid it on the shelf in the Woodstock house) that maybe Peter Knox was going to get his hands on it, thus alerting him to where Diana and Matthew are and spurring a chase of some sort. Scenes such as the one when her journal was found had no impact on the plot.

I remember thinking too that the author must have been trying to meet a length requirement set by the publisher.

What about Louisa? Despite all of Matthew's sad comments about his sister in the first book, he has no sad feelings when he encounters her in the past.

I did like Diana's scenes with the witches and I liked her father.

The point of Diana and Matthew's time travel was supposed to be twofold. She was avoiding an altercation with the Congregation and learning about her powers. If you isolate the part of the book that dealt with advancing the plot begun in the first book, it almost could have been a short story. Unfortunately in this book the author seemed too interested in the interaction of the characters and not enough interested in the plot advancement.

The author has a great opportunity to redeem herself in the final book. Hopefully she will neaten up the plot a bit and get her characters back on track.

message 7: by M (last edited Aug 22, 2012 10:10PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

M Caroline wrote: "I remained interested enough in the book to read it all the way through. I didn't hate it as much as you did but I agree with many of the comments here. I thought that the author handled the time..."

You're right. I said I would read it, but I currently can't imagine doing so. I think that I wrote that in a time of desperation. And by desperation, I mean that it was likely a point when I was in between series and had no idea what to read next. Now that I actually am in the middle of a series that I enjoy I can't imagine being within 100 yards of Shadow of Night or whatever book follows it. There are simply too many other books I could be reading that cost less.

Judi Fox I liked this book less than the 1st, which I liked a lot...You made a lot of good points. I wish the author had stuck to the subject at hand - our witch, our vampire, and the book - rather than educate us cleverly about Sir Walter's school of night and how we've all been mislead all these centuries about Shakespeare. I liked Gallowglass, and it was interesting meeting Phillippe. Too bad Ysabeau wasn't there with him, but that whole bit explained the method of communication over centuries by notes in books.

This book pretty much shoots the theory of the Butterfly Effect out of the water, doesn't it. I can't argue with anything there, but just want to point out that Matthew left himself a note explaining that as soon as he read it, he was to be "called away" and simply disappear. No one would be able to ask him about his wife. It was something he did repeatedly, and often mentioned in the story.

I'll read the 3rd one, too...though I have a sinking feeling it'll focus on Diana's twins and that other baby, and whatever incredible powers they have.

Crossfinn Judi, do you think the book suggests that Shakespeare didn't write his own work? A lot of people seem to read it that way. I think the book just suggests that Shakespeare cribbed ideas...which is probably fair to say of every writer since Homer! :-)

message 10: by Judi (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judi Fox I don't think she went so far as to suggest he didn't write his own work, though she implied he borrowed directly without crediting ;-) from poor old Christopher Marlowe, who never got a break the whole book. In fairness, they were there in 1590 - about the time Will's 1st play was written. No one in 1590 England would have known him as a playwright yet...But if I didn't know who Shakespeare was, I'd think he was simply a forger!

message 11: by Gia (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gia La Force I agree with this review - while I find the enjoyed this book and her first one she leaves some serious holes in the stories. I also feel she makes very odd choices with the main characters -Matthew does a lot of growling but not much else and Diana can be very snivelling. It makes me wonder if this is only a trilogy when is this amazingly powerful witch going to be amazing and powerful? I am hoping this all comes together in the third book but ......

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