Monday, 8 October 2018

Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Publication date: 10th July 2012
Publisher: Viking Adult
Pages: 584 pages

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.

Given how much I enjoyed "A Discovery of Witches" I was really excited to get into the second book in the trilogy, but within a few pages I found that excitement dissipating.

This book was a slog to get through, that ended up taking me several months. There were odd patches that raced along at a better pace and swept me back into the story, but on the whole this was hard work and took me far too long to read for a book of this size.

Ultimately it felt as though Harkness had realised she actually wanted to write a historical novel and wanted to shoehorn that into her urban fantasy series. Sure it had lots of interesting titbits regarding day to day Elizabethan life, but they ended up bogging down the story and stifling any momentum the plot managed to generate.

There wasn't any real movement to the story, and nothing of any real lasting consequence for the story. There were a couple of odd dips into the present to catch us up with the characters from the first book, but they were stilted, strangely done, and skipped over important information that I'm sure we'll get filled in in book three, but just served the irritating purpose of making me flip back through the book going "WHAT IS HAPPENING?!" We met some people, there was some soul searching, there was some character development, but it didn't need to be dragged out over nearly 600 pages. I was left feeling frustrated, bored, and wanting to go back to the first book and pretend this one had never happened.

Yes I will carry on and finish the series, mostly because I struggle to leave a series incomplete. And also in the desperate hope that the third book will recapture what I loved about the first book instead of wading through a quagmire of irrelevant trifles.

This is not the sequel the first book deserved, and it pained me how little I enjoyed it. If I gave half stars it would be two and a half, but I'm feeling generous so I'm rounding up.
If you enjoyed the first book don't expect the same from this one, be prepared for a frustrating read.

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