Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"‘It begins with absence and desire , it begins with blood and fear,’” I whispered.“‘It began with a discovery of witches,’” time responded, in a primeval echo that set alight the blue and amber threads that flickered against the room’s stone walls."
After the events that occurred during the first book: 'A Discovery of Witches', Diana and Matthew timewalked to the XVIth century England. Their reasons are a) to escape the Congregation, b) to find a witch who can teach Diana how to use her powers, and hidden under there is a c) to find the missing manuscript Ashmole 782.
We follow them on this time travel experience filled with so many historical characters, events and everyday life customs. It takes you there, introduces you to the expectations and behaviours of people from that time and very succinctly takes you into the eye of the hurricane of the political turmoil of what was occurring in the Old World. It is a historian's dream come true. I really enjoyed my History of Science courses during my University years, thus I found the first book fascinating. However Shadow of Night was a bit too much for my un-scholary mind. I think it has to be with the focus on England of Elizabethan time. I am not very familiar -or care that much- for all the details of that place in time. I haven't been too interested of who was in which Court, what happened inside and the web of relationships among these people. Introspectively, my History of Science lessons where taught from a viewpoint where Spain was the main decision maker and lessons were based more on the 'discoveries' of the New World. Events, discoveries and strategies that occurred to the Colonies. I have more knowledge and interest on the issues that occurred between the Empire/Colony, as such court intrigue is not my forte. Clearly, this affected my reading experience. I will admit I had to force myself to read it at some points (more than I would have wanted). I have to thank Sam for this too. She kept telling me to go ahead and don't dwell too much in the stuff I was not getting.
In regards to the plot, this book deeply develops Diana and Matthew's relationship, what it means for both of them to be a vampire and a witch together, as well as their strengths and vulnerabilities. It was sweet and powerful. I liked how their love was described, what they feared, dreamed and how fierce their relationship transformed.
It was very creative to have Christopher Marlowe (Kit) as a demon who does not like Diana at all, and I enjoyed having him playing an antagonist. I've read somewhere that readers felt Matthew was too wimpy when dealing with 'Kit', and what a pain in the butt he was to Diana, but truly... I could not imagine a different reaction from Matthew to Kit's behaviour. They were good friends after all.
I understand that there can be different ways to approach this book. One one hand you can be just looking for a fantasy-fiction read with a romantic twist. Others can take this as a tiny window of Historical interpretation where fiction and fantasy meets history. I started the series with the first idea in my mind, and got tangled on the second one. This is not a critique, but it just not what I expected. I am unsure what I really expected but all in all I have to say that I'm glad to be done with this book. I don't see myself re-reading it. Now I expect the finale of the trilogy to wrap it up beautifully. Yep, I have high expectations of what Deborah Harkness can weave [*wink-wink* to Sam and your spell reference].
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