Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy)

Just finished reading Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness.  The second in the All Souls Trilogy and following on where a Discovery of Witches left off.  I enjoyed very much A Discovery of Witches.  I mean, I love books and there was lots of bookishness going on – libraries, ancient manuscripts, research, shelves and shelves of books….  And, there was all the supernatural elements involved as well.  Another world of creatures living amongst us, that we’re not really aware of.  Witches, Demons and Vampires.  Now, I wasn’t always smitten with the romance – I thought it was a little hasty but as the book ended I was eager to get on to No.2, it had a very interesting sounding premise.  And, its felt like a long wait.  Basically the ending set us up for some time travelling, and not just any time travelling, back to the 16th century, to Elizabethan England in search of the manuscript that will answer the question of their beginnings. So Diana and Matthew travel back to England,  they only have a short space of time to recover the manuscript, intact, before they start to alter the course of history.

I mean, this really did sound very promising and I was looking forward to it, but, to be frank, it was a bit disappointing.  I do like the author’s style of writing.  She knows a lot about the period and I loved all the little tidbits of information.  But, it was incredibly slow paced.  It just felt like we sacrificed the story for the detail.  By about page 250 it felt like the only thing that had happened was Matthew and Diana had travelled back in time and then had got married, again.  The writing is lovely and the level and attention to detail is second to none but the story just got lost in there somehow.  Now, to be honest the last 150/200 pages were pretty good and I will say that I’ll read the third book to check out the conclusion.  But, in a book this size there has to be something more.

Okay, I’m not going to bang on a drum too much about this.  I didn’t hate it but it didn’t, for me, live up to it’s potential.  It was well written, but too much, it’s got the romance going on – but could the two of them be any more juvenile.  How old exactly is Matthew after all – surely he should be a little more mature.  It’s like the two of them are afraid to have a good time and just be happy.  And there’s something about this whole ‘Matthew is so scary with his blood rages’ thing.  In a fix he’s not really that much use.

On the good side because I don’t want to be all down about it after all.  The writing is good, there are plenty of good and interesting characters not to mention a lot of historical characters (its like a 16th century almanac or who’s who)!  The detail is amazing and there’s time travel – oh, actually that does bring me to something else – spoiler ahead – what is all that Matthew from the 16th century disappearing when Matthew from the here and now appears – because  he can’t stay in the same time.  How is that possible?  I’ve never heard of that before.  So, if I’m sat here tonight, minding my own business when the future me travels back in time – instead of being able to give me some solid advice I’m just going to disappear!  And, how many months did they stay in the 16th century – come on, they must have made a massive impact.  Perhaps we’ll find out that they actually have done in the next.

Okay, I might have been a little more critical than I intended.  It’s not a bad book by any means.  I suppose my biggest criticism was the lack of pace and the sacrifice of story for detail.  I love detail but I want it there to give me a context for the rest of the story – not to overwhelm it or swamp it completely.


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