(ARC) Two Doll Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
“Together we lifted our feet and stepped into the unknown”—the thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.
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.
Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.
Suz: Eowyn, I’m so glad I get to share with you this discussion about Shadow of Night, the second installment in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.
I really loved the first book, A Discovery of Witches, but I remember writing in my review on Goodreads that it was a very descriptive book. To me the descriptions in ADoW created a slower pacing that had more of a feel of the hallowed halls of academia. I think Deborah Harkness stepped up her game with Shadow of Night, though, and really brought the history to life.
Eowyn: I really enjoyed the pace and the excitement in Shadow of Night. I felt that I was on a roller coaster ride of adventure, something kept happening as soon as you thought you had the answers. It takes true talent to write a 600 page book that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout culminating in you longing for more once you are finished.
The first book was so fabulous that I was worried the second one would not be able to live up to my expectations but I was blown away with the pace and excitement of the second book.
Suz: I so agree with you about the pacing, Eowyn. There was no sophomore slump to be had here. I would say that, in many ways, this was a better book than the first. From the very first line I felt like I was holding my breath half the time wondering what was going to happen next.
I have to admit that I wondered, from the way the first book ended, what we were in for with the fore-shadowing we were given in the first book about Matthew being “a different man” in his history. The discovery of that new guy was a bit of a roller coaster for me, too.
Eowyn: With the foreshadowing at the end of the first book I was concerned what we would learn about the person Matthew was in the past. I agree the discovery was a ride and I feel it shows us how much Matthew has changed over the years to become the person that Diana fell in love with. It is interesting to go back and discover the person Matthew used to be. The dynamics with his friends and family were quite revealing and create an even deeper understanding in the complexity of his character. It was also interesting to watch the ways he is changing as a result of his relationship with Diana as well.
Suz: Matthew was not the heart-throb I wanted him to be in much of this book! I was rather angry with him for some of it, and I found that I wanted to blame him for some of the things that happened even though I understand, or at least could understand, the reasons for not taking more action. I wanted him to be more of a hero. However, in the midst of my being angry with him he would turn around and figuratively expose his throat and become vulnerable because of his feelings for Diana and his commitment to her and leave me less sure of my righteousness and more entrenched in emotional dichotomy.
Eowyn: I agree, I wanted to strangle Matthew many times throughout the book. At times his actions put Diana at risk yet he would turn around and redeem himself in such a tender way. Matthew let his love of his friends from the past at times keep him from being the Knight in shining armor that I wanted him to be. Yet, he turned around and stood strongly beside her during many times of need throughout the book. Going back into time was a trying experience for Diana. She is forced to deal with the social etiquette of the past, her life is in danger, and she must confront her emotions to learn who she is and how to wield her power and Matthew stands beside her supportively at each turn. Though I had wanted to strangle him at times there were also times I wanted to hug him.
Suz: I know what you mean. I think one of the things that I really liked about the book was how they both stood together. When things were down and I was emotionally upset with him, or wanting one or the other of them to act differently, inevitably they would come through it together even if it were a bumpy ride getting there. Some of the more surprising bumpy rides were some of the ways that Diana’s own personal history came to confront her. Imagine traveling back in time more than 400 years and still being confronted with your own personal baggage! It’s true what they say – no matter where you go there you are.
Eowyn: Yes, throughout the book I felt one of the most endearing moments centered on Diana confronting some of her personal baggage from her own past in a time 400 years before she was born. It was quite a surprising twist that adds so much to the story and helps us as well as Diana to understand who she is a bit clearer. This was one of the moments in the book when I just felt warm all over. I won’t elaborate more on what this was because I don’t want to give anything away to those who haven’t read the book, so hurry up and read it so you can talk with us about it.
Suz: In the first book Harkness used fore-shadowing to give us a glimpse of things to come in Shadow of Night. She let us know that Matthew would be changed, different in this older time and she was right, even if it was a kind of multi-layered rightness. She also gave us glimpses of Diana having always felt as if she were being watched. In Shadow of Night we find out why, but in finding out why it’s not only a lovely and heart touching reveal but also a possible fore-shadowing for the next book. When I think of that situation it leaves me excited for the next book. It’s one of the things that leaves me wanting to hug this book!
Eowyn: I couldn’t agree more! The situation you are referring to was so heart-warming. When I read it I had tears in my eyes. To know why she has always felt she was being watched and to understand the deep complexity of love and pride that is wrapped up in it touched me deeply. In fact, it is bringing a tear to my eye right now just thinking about it and I wish we could talk about it with everyone without giving it away! Everyone will just have to read the book yourselves to understand the beautiful writing and complexity that is built in to what we are referring to. I agree with you that this is one of the reasons I can’t wait to read the next book. A year is too long to discover more of the depth behind these touching sentiments. I will anxiously be awaiting the final installment in the trilogy.
Suz: It’s frustrating, isn’t it? These are some really multi-layered issues that are full of nuance and give the story and the world a more subtle depth of character, but to discuss them openly in an ARC review would be to reveal too much too soon and take too much away from our readers. I’m excited to share with everyone but I wouldn’t steal this from them, it’s just too yummy!
Eowyn: I agree Suz, there is just so much depth in the story arcs and the characters making it extremely difficult to tell everyone all the reasons why this is book is so endearing. Harkness juggles multiple complex characters, extremely deep touching truths without ever slowing the story down.
So often I feel that when we are reading a trilogy the books will end with a cliffhanger. I felt that SHADOW OF NIGHT ended in a way that leaves you anxious for the next book because you can sense the trouble that is on the way yet there is closure to the events that have unfolded in this installment. You don’t feel the entire story is left hanging after the last page.
Suz: I’m totally with you on that one! In both of these books they ended preparing for the next book, the next step in the journey and left me feeling anxious to continue the journey with them, but I never feel like they are cliff-hangers. Eowyn, you know that I am a very vocal hater-of-the-cliff-hanger. I might actually be the self appointed President of the Cliff-hanger Haters Club. But I have never felt cheated by the endings in this trilogy. The book arcs are closed and satisfied, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. I do not feel like I got left hanging.
Speaking of endings, Shadow of Night ends with many promises for adventure and new begins yet to come, if the challenges that are still to be faced can be over come. The excitement is still building and there is still a lot at stake, things with potentially far reaching consequences that could change life for all creatures. I’m really too excited to see how the story concludes and can’t recommend this book enough!
Eowyn: I couldn’t agree with you more! Harkness has superbly taken us on an exciting journey and now we sit at the precipice anxiously awaiting the outcome of all that is left to unfold in the final book and I can’t tell our readers enough how much they need to read both A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and SHADOW OF NIGHT so they too can participate in this moment with us and sit on the edge of their seats waiting each and every day until the final book is in their hands. The only thing that saddens me is that once we finish the next book the trilogy is over and I will be saddened to leave Diana, Matthew, their family and friends behind because they hold a special place in my heart. I truly hope all of our readers will read The All Souls Trilogy so they can discuss all of the beautiful nuances we were unable to share in this review with us.