Shadow Of Night

by: Deborah Harkness
Book Two in All Souls Trilogy

Well, I promised when I reviewed A Discovery of Witches, the first in this series, I would follow up with the second book when it was released. I read the second installment over the summer, and, as is typical with second books in a series, the thrill isn't exactly gone, but definitely diminished.

Of course part of the charm of any new series that has a great basic premise and interesting characters is the sheer newness of them. In the first book, we meet Diana and Matthew, a witch and a vampire, respectively, who, against all the rules, fall in love. It turns out that until Ashmole 782, an ancient and supposedly lost manuscript, fairly leaps off the shelves of an Oxford library into her hands, Diana had no idea she was a witch. To protect, her, her parents hid her powers from her, and never trained her in the witchly arts.

Because the appearance of the lost manuscript, and Diana's uncanny ability to actually read the lost glyphs, alerts all the world's supernatural beings (witches, vampires, and daemons) to her existence, Matthew takes her under his, er, wing, and against his better judgement, falls in love with her.

In order to catch Diana up as a witch - she is kidnapped from her vampire husbands' family Chateau and tortured, witch-style - and discover her hidden powers, Diana and Matthew time travel back to the Elizabethan era, where their aim is to find a tutor witch, and the Tudor manuscript, so they can learn how it ended up where it did. The overall aim is to stop the bad guys from doing bad things and maintain the uneasy truce that exists among the three hidden species.

If all that sounds like a grand romp, it is, make no mistake. But where the excitement and fun Harkness no doubt experienced writing her first installment fairly dripped off the pages, this time around it's all a bit more...subdued.

By having her two main characters fall in love, get married, and eventually get in bed (for once they do it the old way around), she's taken a lot of tension out of their relationship, and while I fully expect that she'll have them parted in some way in a yet-to-be-published sequel, that's a big loss in a romantic thriller.

And we're simply missing a big "now what?" I will be the first to admit that I love the details of an historic novel, and Harkness, as I noted with her first book, is first rate at accumulating and piling on the arcane details of so many different subjects, even for me that's not quite enough to keep me turning pages. There just isn't much happening here.

Yes, our characters undergo a bit of a metamorphosis-by-history here: transport a vampire back in time, it seems (unlike humans, he was actually here once, legitimately, on his own timeline), and he will regress emotionally; witchy women, even when they are the agent of said transport, become decidedly more whiny and weak; writers tend to lose themselves in details (admittedly quite splendidly researched and written) and forget that it's plot that drives a story forward, at least part of the time. But all in all, Harkness seems to have either been meeting a difficult timeline from her publishers, or to be coasting while she invents a recovery-third book in which she finds her feet again with the kind of plot and tension that made the first book such a great success.

I will read book three, with that hope!


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