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Book Review – Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

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You may have noticed that last week I was mostly MIA… Well that’s thanks to the fact I had started this book. It’s a hefty read just like its predecessor was, and just like the final instalment will be I’m sure. Once again I was transported into a world of humans, witches, vampires, daemons and more… And once again I LOVED it.

IT BEGAN WITH A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers…

This book picks up right where book one left off. We find Diana and Matthew at the destination of their time walking… the year 1590. Elizabethan England. I am someone who has a lot of love for anything to do with history. I love reading about past eras, whether in fact or fiction. So I was excited to follow this story and devour every single detail I could, not just about the characters but also about the setting…

There is a lot of detail packed into these pages. For me I love a book with a heavy dose of detail as long as it adds to the story being told and in this case it was certainly warranted. There is no way the author would’ve been able to paint such a vivid picture of the Elizabethan era if she didn’t spend the page space on building up every little detail from the clothing, the food, the buildings, the etiquette right down to the smells and strange little quirks of the period. I LOVED the detail that Deborah Harkness went into. I didn’t begrudge one single sentence of her world building. It was beautifully done. I really enjoyed that the same level of care that Harkness took in the first book with describing the scientific aspects of the story was also paid to the historical aspects in this instalment. For me I think what really highlighted the almost unimaginable alien feel of the time period was that we were seeing it through Diana’s eyes. Through her very modern, current day eyes. For as much as she is a history buff, she is still from our way of life. Having her deposited into 1590 highlighted just how much the world has changed.

Time travelling can be a very tricky plot to both write and follow as a reader. I really enjoyed the authors take on this subject… that said, there is always going to be some threads of the story that do raise question marks and it’s certainly no different here. I do wonder about the ‘old’ Matthew who reappears with apparently no knowledge of the events his future self participated in after Diana and ‘current’ Matthew return back to the current day. Think about it too hard and there are a lot of ‘what if’s’ there. Also the creatures that are let in on the secret of the time travelling have their future completely re-written, just by the fact they know what they know. But the implications of all of this can’t ever possibly be fully covered and explained.

On the other hand, the fact that the characters need to be careful about altering history is brought up quite a few times and this is actually one of the parts of the time travelling storyline I really enjoyed. How the author focused on the seemingly smallest things (the set of miniatures for example) and linked through them to chapters set in the current day was the perfect way to tie the story together and keep the pace and story going in the here and now as well as in the past. I loved that we got to check in with characters such as Marcus, Em, Sarah, Ysabeau and Sophie as well as some characters that weren’t familiar from the first book but I’m sure will be by the end of the last. This last point also goes for the characters introduced in the past. I loved getting to meet the people from Matthews past that I had heard of, I loved following Matthew and watching him be able to see people that he had lost long ago. There were some very poignant reunions; the chapters spent on their visit to Sept-Tours were my absolute favourites of the whole book.

The plotlines covering the manuscript and Diana’s powers all progressed at least in part. As far as Diana’s learning of her craft, even though I felt like it was a bit stop/start on the whole, I still really loved the direction this storyline ended up taking. There were some unexpected surprises and reveals about Diana and her powers and it was so satisfying that by the end of this book she had actually moved forward in learning about and managing her powers. The manuscript had a lot of writing time spent on the hunting of it. The actual acquiring of it…Not so much. But that doesn’t at all reduce the shocking discovery about its nature and I’m very interested to see where this particular storyline heads next, it’s gotten steadily creepier and creepier and I’m sure there’s much more of that to come.

Finally…The love story. As much as this is a story about creatures, magic and time travel, it’s just as much a story of a romance. The relationship between Matthew and Diana is the crux of this series. Everything comes back to them and their connection and in this book everything is taken up a few notches and we start to see exactly what is riding on this love story. Both characters develop and grow along with their relationship and I love that there is progress in this respect. Nothing drives me crazier than a love story that’s stagnant. Probably my biggest hope for Diana and Matthew is that they get some form of HEA once all is said and done. I’m still unsure what that HEA will look like, but I am staying optimistic!

So yes, this is a long read. Yes, this has A LOT of detail, historical and otherwise and yes it is based on a romance. I feel that all of these aspects make it work as a brilliant second instalment in this trilogy. It feels like we are hurtling towards all of these threads of stories being tied into finality and I literally cannot wait until July 15th when the final book is released… I can guarantee I won’t be sleeping much that week… I have seriously big hopes…. huge hopes!

 

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin ccphoto credit: true2source via photopin ccphoto credit: bijoubaby via photopin cc


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