Title: Shadow of Night
Author: Deborah Harkness
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches.
Diana and Matthew have successfully jumped back in time to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, where they begin searching for a witch that can teach Diana more about her powers. Things quickly become complicated, though. With the witch hunts flaring up, Matthew can’t guarantee Diana’s safety, and Matthew must confront difficult truths from his past and come to terms with his role in his father’s death.
As A Discovery of Witches was one of my top reads of 2011, I (along with plenty of other readers) have been breathlessly anticipating the sequel Shadow of Night. I was eager to be plunged back into Diana’s mysterious world of witches, vampires, and daemons, as well as to learn more about Diana herself and the secrets of the mysterious book Ashmole 782. With a series as intricate and rich as the All Souls Trilogy, it goes without saying that it’s absolutely necessary to read these books in order.
Shadow of Night focused much more on character development than furthering the mythology of the series. Through A Discovery of Witches, Matthew was a bit of a mystery. While he seemed to know everything about Diana, she knew little about his past. This changes in the series’ second installment; Matthew’s past is put on display, and some aspects of it are difficult for him to face. It’s interesting to see him become a bit less of an otherworldly being and more as a relatable person. Harkness dealt with Matthew and his past incredibly well in this book.
The setting certainly makes for an interesting read in Shadow of Night. Harkness makes the past come alive through her vivid descriptions. Admittedly, I did prefer the modern day to Elizabethan England, but it was handled well. Though there are some plot holes (for example, what happens when Matthew returns to the present and past Matthew has no wife?), it’s so entertaining that it almost doesn’t matter.
The story itself is completely gripping; despite the book’s heft, readers will want to consume the entire novel in one sitting. Harkness has an amazing eye for detail and writes such a complex, unexpected story. While readers might try to predict where the novel is heading, they will be surprised time and again by what the author has in store for them. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Harkness’ ability to write a compelling, engaging novel that is absolutely impossible to put down. This is one of the best series I’ve ever read and I don’t say that lightly.
The amazingly detailed worldbuilding takes center stage once again towards the end of Shadow of Night. As Diana and Matthew learn more about Diana’s latent powers, as well as the origins of Ashmole 782, more pieces of the puzzle start to come together. Harkness sets the stage for a brilliant and explosive conclusion to the series over the course of the book, and the only aspect of the book readers will find disappointing is how quickly it seems to come to an end. The wait for the final book in the trilogy will be a long one, but with Harkness’ writing ability, there is no doubt that it will be entirely worth it.
Other books by Deborah Harkness: