Dan Thompson's Reviews > Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
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Nov 30, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, historical, read-in-2012, romantic-fantasy, vampires, witchcraft
Read from August 24 to November 29, 2012

I think it’s fair to say that when I first heard that Shadow of Night was being released, I did a little dance all by myself in the middle of the supermarket when I got an update from Amazon. I had loved Deborah Harkness’ previous novel ‘A Discovery of Witches’ and I had some very high hopes for this one.

Ignoring the fact that it is a continuation from the first novel, with characters I fell in love with, it is still about witchcraft and if you already know me, well then you’ll know I’m a sucker for a novel featuring Witchcraft. Plus, imagine my surprise when I discovered that pretty much the entire of the novel would be set in Tudor England. Apart from Ancient Civilisations, Tudor history was one of my pet subjects at school and I fell in love with the political upheavals and religious changes that spanned an entire century. With two big ticks already, what could possibly go wrong …..

Well, in my opinion nothing really. This is one mammoth of a novel that transports you from present time America to Elizabethan era England, right through to Prague in the time of His Majesty Rudolph II. It’s an exciting and adult trip, full of secrets, lies and multiple facades that interwove with each other to give us a story that can exist without the magic thrown in. But why would we want it to? The magic is really the heart of this story as protagonist, Diana Bishop, has to learn her skills as a witch and to do so both herself and Matthew (her Vampire lover) must search the breadth of the Elizabethan world to find someone suitable.

And whilst they are trying to stay away from the clutches of The Congregation back in the present day, who are abhorred by the fact that both Diana and Matthew have broken the silent oath of two creatures falling in love; they also have to try and discover this mysterious manuscript known only as Ashmole 782. This book eluded them in the first novel, but it’s an exciting rollercoaster ride to discover if it will again here in Shadow of Night.

After reading some of the more critical reviews of this book on websites such as Amazon and Goodreads, it was plain to see that many people found this book lacking in action, with too much dialogue and unnecessary scenes. I, however, have to disagree as such. The action comes when it is needed, to quicken the pace and introduce us to an important story arc. But it is the times when the action is quite slow that really intrigue me. Here we must respect and understand the characterisation that Deborah Harkness really excels at and how she mixes them with witty and sometimes tricky dialogue. We can easily read between the lies past the formalities to know that all is not being revealed by characters and that at some point, a rather large secret or betrayal will finally emerge. It is very clever storytelling indeed.

The author is also a master at setting a scene with its unique and powerful atmosphere, whether we are following Diana in Elizabethan London, the safe haven house of Goody Alsop or in fact whether we are in the throne room with Queen Elizabeth I or ‘Lizzy’ as Matthew is accustomed to calling her. It is evident to see that as a historian herself, Deborah Harkness captures your imagination with delectable description of the surroundings and I love epic novels and sometimes that doesn’t have to be fantasy. Deborah Harkness has created a fully rendered 3D world filled with history and magic combined.

A few months ago, I ventured across England to go and hear her speak at a Waterstones bookshop and it was fascinating to hear her talk about all of the important connections within the book. William Shakespeare makes a brief appearance as does other real persons including Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe and of course Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I. It was a pleasure to see fictionalised drama from historical figures I already knew about.

If I had to pick a complaint about this book, it probably would be that in order to enjoy this novel, it is imperative you must have both read and enjoyed its predecessor ‘A Discovery of Witches’. Sometimes I can understand why readers dislike novels like this because they see that despite it being a sequel or part of a series, all books should be able to stand on their own. Even though there are delightful reminders of the previous book, it isn’t a book you take on alone with absolutely no knowledge of Diana and Matthew’s history.

It took me an absolute eternity to read this book and not because it was difficult or because I disliked it, but because it attached itself on to me so tightly, I never wanted to read the end because then it meant I would have to put it down. I tried my damn hardest to prolong this book, whilst trying to fight the urge to race to the end to see its conclusion. Now I’ve finally reached the end, it will be hard to wait until the final book comes out, which will probably be sometime in 2014.

Shadow of Night is an endearing book, addictive to discover and reads poetically in moments that pull on your heart strings. Diana and Matthew’s journey isn’t a free easy going one; it is rife with tragedy, deceit, misunderstanding and historical turmoil. Deborah Harkness is a true genius when it comes to historical novels such as this; plus it mixes magic, witchcraft and the supernatural into its already crammed bag and the result is phenomenal. It truly is one of my favourite reads of 2012 and in fact one of my favourite novels of all time and trust me, for me to say that it really does have to be that good. Now I will sombrely await the next instalment, both because it will feel like an eternity away but plus because we already know it will be the last in this eventful series.

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