Format: ARC (NetGalley)
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.
This review was originally posted 2012. Republishing this to honor the release of the final book in the trilogy, The Book of Life, which I'm still reading.
When I first came across Discovery of Witches BTS (Before Talk Supe) I coveted the book mainly because of the cover and all the rave reviews I've read pertaining to Deborah Harkness' debut novel. As for the story, I liked it enough but it was challenging to read because of the length and the pace. DHarkness took her time in building Diana and Matthew's world, she was meticulous in her descriptions whether it's a place, a feeling or even the weather, leaving almost nothing to the imagination. However I didn't find it boring either, rather it felt more of a scholarly story to me because DHarkness really meshed her lore well with historical fact plus both Diana and Matthew are professors so you know there'll be bouts of trivial lecture somewhere.
SHADOW OF NIGHT is as daunting as it's predecessor, at 584 pages the story is filled with remarkable descriptions and facts about Elizabethan London. Famous historical figures join Matthew and Diana's journey like William Shakespeare and the detestable Christopher Marlowe. Again DHarkness didn't disappoint in making her version of 16th century England as factual as can be with a mist of supernatural creatures loitering the streets of London to make it exciting.
"Nonsense. Marrying amid bloodshed is a de Clermont family tradition. Phillipe said briskly. "We only seem to mate creatures who are desired by others."
DHarkness gleaned on the romance between Matthew and Diana, concentrating more on coupling historical tidbits with her alternative London. Some of you might disagree with me on this but I felt there were too many fillers in SHADOW OF NIGHT that I could do without. For example, chapter 7 was about present day Rima Jaen who, I am assuming, found Diana's journal and with her boss, they both considered the manuscript trash and never heard from them again. This chapter had no bearing to the totality of the story and an addition they could have edited out.
Mark me well, Diana: Lives will be lost because of your love for my son. Some will sacrifice themselves. Others will die because someone must, and it will be for you to decide if it is you or them or someone you love. - Phillipe
The core of SHADOW OF NIGHT was exciting and the story DHarkness is telling is truly wonderful. Matthew and Diana's forbidden romance provides all the dramatic trappings one expects from a typical PNR and all the opposing forces and insistent nay saying is enough for me to root for them. The historical background was accurate and even the liberties she took with Queen Elizabeth, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were plausible once you remove the supernatural aspects. I love how authentic her details are like people's hygiene at that time down to the proper grip and handling of a quill for a more efficient way to write. She laid it like it is and probably romanticized some things to blunt the edges of how polluted and dangerous London was during this time.
But it's all these extra trimmings and frills that provided great distractions for me to get entranced by the story. The excessive details on things, like Diana's wedding dress for one, took its toll on me that halfway through I feel DHarkenss just gets a kick from reading her pretty words and carefully written prose. Towards the end reading SHADOW OF NIGHT felt more like a chore to me than an enjoyable past time.
On the flip side, since Discovery of Witches is being turned into a movie, I am sure I will fully appreciate and LOVE all the visuals the movie will provide because DHarkness spared no detail in painting her world in accurate detail. Now THAT is a movie adaptation I want to see soon.
P.S. Since this review was published last year, it's been reported that the movie deal fell through. Sad to hear that but hopefully with the series' continued success, someone will take interest and bring this either to a theater near us or the boob tube.