Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Shadown of Night by Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me warn you up front, this review is going to be a mish mash of my feelings about the book. No rhyme or reason. No cohesive thoughts. No worries over writing well or being clear. (I'm apparently modeling my review after the book itself! LOL)

Oh boy! Although I really loved the first in this trilogy, I was disappointed in this one. I still enjoyed reading it but it isn't nearly as good as the first one. Whereas A Discovery of Witches was engaging and interesting and compelling, this one was slow moving, meandering, and at times seemed pointless. I still like these characters and I liked the new characters introduced in this one (although I have to admit that many in Matthew's 16th century close circle of friends were interchangeable to me - and they never really came into their own).

I liked how the novel took you to the late 1500s in England - experiencing that was probably the most compelling thing about the book beyond the characters. I just felt like the plot never went anywhere. It's almost like the author got so involved in setting the place and characters in Elizabethan times that she forgot to actually move the plot forward in any way.

Whereas the first novel had a very well plotted premise, this one was just all over the place. At times I felt as if I couldn't understand why we even went where we went - nothing seemed to be actually moving the plot forward. And, for me, as much as I enjoyed the visit to the late 1500s, I'd also like to feel like we're DOING something while we are there other than exploring a bunch of new characters and 16th century 'stuff.' The glimpses into Diana's emerging magic and the politics of the time were nice but not enough to save the plot for me.

Another aspect that I found frustrating was how contrived it all was - Matthew in the 1500s is apparently the most connected person on the planet - he knows anyone who is anyone in the late 1500s intimately. I just think that is completely and utterly unrealistic - even within what we know of the character. The entire plot while in England seems to be that they (and their entourage) move from place to place, doing not so interesting things and getting into trouble. Diana learns to be a 16th century woman and has occasional 'lessons' in magic while Matthew does goodness knows with the myriad of famous and connected people that he knows. It just never made sense to me. I know why they came to the 16th century but I never really 'got' the sense that they were actually there doing what they intended to do. Going around in circles over and over is just not compelling fiction. Very frustrating for me.

Time travel is not done well here. At all. It's done so much better elsewhere that its really sad to see it so badly managed in this novel - particularly given how central to the plot it is in this novel.

I still love the characters and that was the novel's saving grace for me. I loved seeing the existing relationships grow and new relationships develop.

The book was entirely too long and too under edited. Someone needed to take a red pen to this one and edit all of the nonsense out. It isn't unusual for sequels to not live up to the original. And that is certainly the case here. For those who hated the first, you will REALLY hate this one. For those who loved the first, you will likely either love this one (apparently some people have loved it) or be, at the very least, disappointed by it.

I was so looking forward to this sequel. And so disappointed in the final product. I didn't hate it (despite the long review of all things icky about the novel). But, I didn't love it. Not even close. It wasn't BAD but it certainly wasn't GOOD.

The escapism of the story and my interest in the characters is compelling me to keep reading and finish the trilogy. However, if you can't get beyond unimpressive prose, bad plotting, and horrible pacing, this probably isn't the novel for you.

(Sorry for all of the rambling ...)

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