Shadow of Night | Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night (All Souls #2) by Deborah Harkness published 10 July 2012

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

How was it?

The historical contextualization is still present, just like many of the less desirable aspects of the previous entry. Reading A Discovery of Witches was a bit of a chore, in particular when there’s a trimmed, dare I say better, televised version. I don’t know if it’s because I got used to Harkness’ “style,” maybe it’s Stockholm syndrome – the first book is long enough to induce the condition. Or is it because I know the TV series will cut through the fluff? But I enjoyed “Shadow of Night” more than the previous book.

The authors didn’t disregard how out of place Diana would be in the 1590s. Her speech, customs, and manners do not blend with the era she’s now in. So she has to adapt and in this series it means we’ll be right there with her for every step on the way. Harkness paints a detailed picture of the 16th century and again goes overboard. I found a way to tolerate and almost appreciate it, but the knowledge that a lot of it does nothing to push the story forward is grading. There are whole sections that I knew to be filler and managed not to skim through them.

To achieve even one of the objectives that brought them to 16th century England takes so much time that it often feels like they forgot why they were there in the first place. I can admit that life doesn’t always go according to plan, that some curve balls Matthew and Diana had to deal with were thrown, however they often took the looong way around to do most things. Mirroring the writing, the main characters are not very efficient, but Diana manages not to be a whimpering mess and start to show promise.

So how could it better than book one? At its core, Shadow of Night is interesting, each parts bestowing some kind of wisdom wrapped in a thick layer of filler. The book is exciting and/or frustrating at times, one just has to sieve.

There is a death that comes in out of nowhere towards the end that I worried I was zombie reading* when it happened but I was too lazy to look back and check since I’m pretty sure I didn’t zombie read that book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*Zombie reading: reading something without really processing any of the words on the pages. One often wonders how they got a particular section, with little to no recollection of what came before, after zombie reading.

Previous book in the series:

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