Shadow of Night

(All Souls Trilogy #2)

by Deborah Harkness

3.5 stars, actually.

So there are some series where you should just read the first book only, and I should have followed my instincts back when I read Discovery of Witches, because I sensed that the build up of romantic tension and slow reveal of the Creatures’ (daemon, witch, vampire) world was what hooked me and kept me enjoying the book despite some uncomfortableness with Diana’s passivity and Mary-Sue like attraction to all males as well as power-upon-power.

That build up is gone in this second book. Diana and Matthew travel back in time to keep themselves safe from the shadowy Creature ruling body that outlaws relations between types of creatures. Matthew loses some of his characterization from the first book, in my opinion, and becomes a domineering, chauvinistic, jerk who basically leaves Diana to her own devices all the time in favor of his “school of night” friends. It’s quite clear that Harkness is just as much in love with Kit Marlowe, Henry Purcell, Raleigh, etc. as Matthew because there’s an inordinate amount of time spent on telling us about their witty repartee and their wonderfulness…and less in actually showing it to us.

This book is more of a tour through scientists/literary figures and the London of that time period with extensive description about churches and roofs and streets and landmarks (all very interesting from a historical perspective, but I read Discovery of Witches for the vampire witch romance, and Diana gets a chance to call out vampire romances in a tongue-in-cheek /break-the-fourth-wall kind of way that I actually really enjoyed when she discusses vampire romance with Matthew) that was fun for the first half of the book, establishing the character of the city in which Diana is trying to blend in as she learns about her witch powers, but then becomes plodding when we do the whole thing again in Prague.

Most of the book is, despite the quest for the Ashmole manuscript, really about Matthew engaging in politics and Diana constantly getting dressed or briefly talking to servants or the youths they adopt before sending them off with someone or promising them they will go out with Gallowglass once he returns from an errand, or thinking about witches. And I was disappointed by her continued passivity and lack of confidence in dealing with folks since she survived horrific torture and attempts on her life in the first book.

she continually thinks of herself as powerless (despite gaining EVEN MORE powers in this book) and doesn’t seem to realize the potential she has to use those powers to work her current life. It’s a tad frustrating. So is also the ever present ‘danger” of being “discovered” that they ignore completely by hanging out with famous and powerful folks and that never actually materializes in any dangerous form.

Arrrghhhh. I wont’ be going on to the third book. I’ll just read the reviews to find out what happens. There’s just too much about Diana that is frustrating, and she continues that frustrating passivity in her relationship with Matthew who becomes somehwat unrecognizable and absent in this book.