Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

I feel like this book falls into the trap common for second books in trilogies - it takes all the intense, fast-paced action of the first book and slows it way down while subtly hinting at the climax coming in book three. This slowing down of the story can take something that started out very exciting and dull it down a little bit. I still like the series and still enjoyed the story but the tone here was so significantly different from A Discovery of Witches, that, if not for the repeat characters, it would be hard to tell the books belong together.

Shadow of Night has our heroes - Diana the Witch and Matthew the Vampire - travel back to the 16th century to track down a magical book Diana encounters in her present. This encounter proves extremely dangerous for Diana as we see in Discovery because it is believed this book contains the origins story for all non-humans who live in the world today. Diana is somehow magically bound to the book while her relationship with Matthew also has some alchemical link to it as well. They've also traveled back to hide out from those chasing Diana giving her time to explore her magic.

Matthew was actually already a vampire by the 1590's so he and Diana resume the life he's already lived in England among such historical characters as Sir Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth, Christopher Marlowe, and Shakespeare himself. In addition to these historical characters, this book is overloaded with new characters to keep track of; a lot of whom are significant in Matthew's extensive vampire family tree. It's a lot to keep up with as Matthew and Diana are married again and really begin to build their romantic relationship which had it's negatives for me as well. At times, the relationship felt a little Twilight-ish for me with too much angst and over emotion, but at least we're dealing with two adults here instead of teenage hormones.

While I didn't really care for the intricacies of their romance, it was interesting to meet the rest of Matthew's family and go deeper into the hierarchical structure of a vampire clan. The witches and their magic get a little silly for me and I felt the historian part of Diana's character all but vanishes once she goes backward in time (and I really liked that part of her character from Discovery.)

The story was still a good read and definitely an adventure but just a bit patchy when compared to Harkness' first attempt. Not much of a cliffhanger either so am definitely curious to see where the story is going to go and what's going to happen in book three. I'm also a little concerned about how much will actually be crammed into book three to make up for the slower pace of this volume.