Shadow of Night is an Intriguing Mixture of Outlander and Twilight | Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

6:12 PM

Spoiler alert: I enjoyed this one a bit more than A Discovery of Witches! Also, I love Gallowglass?


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. 

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness 
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 stars)

“We don’t lock up books in this house,” Philippe said, “only food, ale, and wine. Reading Herodotus or Aquinas seldom leads to bad behavior.”

Interesting. As a whole, I felt like Shadow of Night worked a lot better than A Discovery of Witches, despite its weaker points. While I found myself reading this one at a slower pace, and less compulsively than its predecessor, I felt like the formula behind Shadow of Night was fashioned into something a lot more intriguing. There was this nostalgic feeling to Shadow of Night that reminded me of my experiences reading Outlander , Twilight and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Curling up to this book as we near the winter months, and Christmas twinkles in the backdrop of my life, has been cozy and familiar. Although it has some pacing issues it is without a doubt superior to A Discovery of Witches in my honest opinion. Reading it has been a bit less indulgent and more compelling.

This could be due to many things.

Perhaps it is all the ties to the first book and the past, as we've only just begun to see it. How the historical settings and real-life characters worked into a fantasy counterpart. Real history weaves itself into this highly potent fantasy, reminding us of the fact that at its core, this trilogy is of three things: love, magic and history. While there were some aspects I'd felt only made the story more tedious and bleak than necessary, there was this spark of liveliness to Shadow of Night that I felt A Discovery of Witches lacked.

In this installment, I found the characters to be a bit more well-rounded and fascinating. From the introduction of more of Matthew's family: Philipe de Clermont, Louisa de Clermont and Gallowglass de Clermont to the inclusion of historical figures and the return of many familiar faces briefly, the surprise time-walking visit of Diana's father, and newer characters altogether. I found the way that Harkness translates familiar history into her world and makes it something buzzing with energy and intrigue.

There, too, are some cheeky bits within this history and characters that I found to be fun additions to the central story-lines.

Sticking with the cast of characters, I have very little to complain about in terms of characters. The death we are told of is the biggest explain of my complaints, and I wish there had been just a hint more of Ysabeau de Clermont, Marcus Whitmore, Emily Mather and Sarah Bishop. Diana continues to shine brightly in more ways than one and Matthew improves upon himself... albeit, a bit slowly.

Of the characters and plotlines, I definitely have a set of favourites. Diana and Matthew's romance continues to conflict me: one minute I feel the sparks and intrigue, the other moments I want to knock Matthew down a few pegs. I really, really, really loved the way that Philippe and Gallowglass are introduced and just how deeply they will tie into the conclusion. (I think I'm a Gallowglass stan, now? I LOVE HIM. Please don't ruin this for me.)

There's a part of me that wishes there was something about more developed in how time connects these characters--through history and present day. I felt like for such a massive book, we could have tied into the story more and devoted a little more time to what was happening in present day. This, of course, could just be greediness on my part. It's not as though we don't see the story unfold in both timelines, it just felt like it wasn't enough for my mind to truly process everything.

As always, Deborah Harkness' prose stands out as the biggest high point of the series--while the story hasn't always been my favourite, I've truly never been able to deny the magnetic pull of how she pens it. Shadow of Night exceeded my expectations and took me on a magical, richly drawn and historical fueled journey. I definitely enjoyed it and can't wait to see how the story ends within The Book of Life

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