Audiobook Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night
By Deborah Harkness

Read by Jennifer Ikeda
ISBN: 9780670023486
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 7/10/2012
Pages: 592 (or 20 disks)
Series: All Souls Trilogy, #2
Source: the publisher was kind enough to send me a copy

You know that feeling you have when a book you’ve been looking forward to for months finally comes out and you have it in your hot little hands and… and… it disappoints you?

Yeah? You do?

That’s how I feel about this book.

You see, I read, and adored A Discovery of Witches last year. It had a few problems, least of which was its slight Twilight feeling, but I forgave the problems because of the characters, in particular, Diana and Matthew. I reread A Discovery of Witches by listening to the audio book and delighted in it even more. The reader was fantastic, the characters every bit as fascinating as I remembered; so my excitement for Shadow of Night was doubled. When I got it unsolicited in the mail, I was beside myself.

Then I started listening to Shadow of Night. I read it with Andi and we burned up the internets. Shadow of Night picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off, so yes, this review does contain spoilers for the first book. Diana and Matthew have traveled back in time to 1591, Elizabethan England, in order for Diana to find a witch who can teach her how to use and control her magic and to hide from the Convention who so desperately wants to harm her and use her to gain control of a magical book called Ashmole 782. Diana and Matthew land in the middle of Matthew’s old life as a spy, member of the mysterious School of Night AND avowed witch hater.

Dum, dum, dummmmm….

So, um, yeah, that does sound exciting, yes? And it was…to a certain extent. It was all the useless details on dress, on food, on this famous person and that famous person and yes! Matthew knew that famous person too! This book is so bloated with useless, inconsequencial, and pointless to the plot information that it eventually became an eye-roll bonanza. If I heard one more time about Matthew’s garters, or all the many layers of clothing Diana had to wear, I was going to scream. I’m all for building the scene, but I can picture a few things in my head myself. I’m surprised my eyes didn’t roll out of my head. At one point, I emailed Andi to say it felt like someone just had to show off how much she knows about the time period. Harkness is a professor and researched the history of magic and science in Europe , especially during the period from 1500 to 1700. Andi agreed.

My biggest complaint is that this trip to the past few pointless. I don’t see where they did anything in the past they couldn’t have done in the present. They go back to find Ashmole 782 and, as a result of their visit, the book is damaged as it was when Diana found it in the present, so basically, they caused the damage. They do find a witch to help Diana, which takes eons (!) (it felt like, really, it was half the book) but I figure they could just as easily have found one in the present. The only thing they couldn’t have done is met the School of Night (again for Matthew) and HOLY RUSTED METAL BATMAN, I could have lived with out Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe is another beef, but a purely irritating one to even discuss. Let’s just say I didn’t like him and still don’t understand Matthew’s tolerance of him. If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand that I hope. There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo about alchemy, which honestly, I didn’t really understand at all. And if I hear one more reference to the Goddess Diana, I cannot be help responsible for my actions.

And then, there is the Big Thing that Happens at the End and then is Never Explained. *grumble* I really can’t say anything more about that. Spoilers!

That’s not to say the book didn’t have any merits. It did. I still LIKE Matthew and Diana. I probably don’t quite love them like I did, but I do still like them. I’m still invested enough to read the last book, which Andi and I have already agreed to read together as well. A new character was introduced, Matthew’s vampire nephew Gallowglass, who *really* captured my imagination (purr…), so much so that I would read a book dedicated to his character in a heartbeat. I enjoyed meeting Matthew’s father Philippe. And the witches from Elizabethan London were interested, especially Goody Alsop, if they did seem slightly pointless. Queen Elizabeth herself makes an appearance (of course she does…. eye roll) and she is just as I always imagined her and is a lot of fun. And Diana finally starts stand up for herself to the control freak Matthew.

In the end, this book really could have used some editing to cure the extreme case of MiddleNovelitis (trademark pending) this book had. Just a wee bit of editing really could have made all the difference. Okay, a little more than wee.

As for the reader, Jennifer Ikeda returns from A Discovery of Witches and she does just as great a job in this one as that. She has a nice, measured voice that is really pleasant to listen to. Plus, she has an excellent command of accents! In this book she uses American, English, French, German, Southern American, and Scottish; and that is just the ones I remember! And I can’t be completely sure if it was the fact that I was listening to the book or the fact that I was reading it with Andi, but I’m pretty sure one of the two (or possibly both!) kept me reading to the end. So thank goodness for Jennifer Ikeda and Andi!

11 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I closed the book and thought 'what was the point of all that then'. Will I still be looking forward to the third book? Sure, but not with anywhere near the level of anticipation that I looked forward to this one with!

    1. Oh thank goodness, I was beginning to think Andi and I were alone in our disappointment. So many other reviewers have loved it!

    1. Don't tell her! I've seen lots of reviews from people who loved it. It just didn't work for me. 🙁

      If she does read it, I hope you get her to review it; I'd love to hear what she thinks!

  2. I loved the historical details! I loved the audio. I admit that the plot didn't move along all that much, but still …. I was thrilled to be in Elizabethan England. So sorry you and had such trouble with it.

    1. I'm beginning to wonder if it was my mood! I normally love historical details. I'm not the most patient of people on a good day, and it was just soooooo slow. I'm hoping the writing is back to form (for me!) in the last book. So hopeful.

  3. You're definitely not alone in your disappointment. I was SO disappointed in this one. I was left with the question of what exactly the point was at more than one moment during my reading. I felt it was slow and too detailed and just too slooooow. Matthew and Diana's relationship dynamic also irritated me (though I did feel Harkness tried to address the problems I had in the first book, just not entirely satisfactory. I don't know. I will be reading the third book, I think, but I won't be in a hurry – I think. Or at least I'll learn to not anticipate reading it too much.

  4. Seeing how I couldn't even get through the first book, I won't be reading this one. I'm so sorry that you didn't enjoy it more, but it made for a very fun review!!! 😛 And like I just said to Andi, you two are just too dang adorable for words!!! 😀

  5. Kit was a total ass. Early in the book Matthew told him to leave and I got all excited that he was gone. And then a few pages later I found out HE'D JUST GONE UPSTAIRS. I was hugely disappointed. I wanted him gone gone.

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