Deborah Harkness's new book, Shadow of Night, has been all the talk 'round the blogs, and I am noooo different. I was itching to get my hands on it and dive right in. And then I did! And then I started reading! And then....NOTHING HAPPENED. For most of the book.
Short blurb: Diana and Matthew are in the 1500s. Diana needs a witch coach to teach her to harness her witchy powers. There are lots of famous dead people: Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth! And 87,000 others that I won't name here. So. Many. Historical. Figures. Because Matthew knows everybody.
I read this book along with Heather, and she and I generally share a brain. This buddy reading arrangement made for a supremely enjoyable experience even though the book was not as supremely enjoyable as I'd expected. I didn't dislike it. I just rolled my eyes a lot.
In my previous experience with Harkness's work, I found Diana and Matthew absolutely, mind blowingly annoying. That is, they are a very codependent lot. Matthew is bossy and uber-protective. Diana is kinda wishy-washy for a kickass scholar. And she naps a lot. In this book, I did find their relationship somewhat improved. That is, Diana has become a better "Matthew handler." He was still bossy, but she was a little more willing to blow his behavior off or defy him rather than bow down every time.
My biggest quibbles with this installment are these:
- Too many conflicts. Kitchen sink, y'all. I counted 8-10 MAJOR conflicts.
- Slow-moving. It took an annoyingly long time to get anything accomplished. Failed attempts to find a teacher of magic are fine but eventually I expect the story to deliver significantly before page 500.
- Character weirdness. Matthew put up with things in this book that seemed remarkably out of character for him. I'm looking at you, Kit Marlowe.
- There's a big WTF twist at the end with NO EXPLANATION AT ALL. Annoyed. Seriously. Not a cliffhanger, just a plot development that seemed out of place or unnecessary at this juncture.
So, in short, this novel suffers from a ripping case of "middlenovelitis." Lots of unnecessaries that seem to take up a book's worth of time.
Before you think I'm calling this one a lost cause, I did enjoy the historical romp in this book. I liked meeting the dead historicals (band name?) even though I thought there were far too many of them introduced here. I felt transported to the time period, but I was ready for more plot development and it felt like it stalled.
I'm still looking forward to the final installment. I'm invested enough in these characters' lives to NEED that last book. I will definitely be reading with Heather again. Check out some of the greatest hits from our week-long conversation...
Andi: Are we ready? Are we???? lol 40 pages of The Secret Garden left for me which really adds up to about 20 pages on my Nook. Will finish at lunch today.
Heather: Um, yeah, about that. I *kinda* started it this morning. I was going to tell you, I swear! Woo hoo!
Andi: LMAO! Well I secretly read 30 pages last weekend. So we're even. :D
Andi: WHEN WILL THE WITCH TRAINING START
Heather: APPARENTLY WHEN ______ IS APPROXIMATELY 50 YEARS OLD. lol
Andi: So how are you liking the book? Too annoyed to enjoy?
Heather: Okay, that's spooky. I was just going ask you if you were as annoyed with this book as I was.
The end. Obviously, I cut out a lot of the spoilery stuff, because we typed TONS about this book. Even if we were both annoyed, it was highly discussable.
So that's it. There is a lot of waiting to be done between now and the final installment of the All Souls trilogy.
What did you think of Shadow of Night if you're already finished?
Snuggle -- Skewer
OR Distracting one-armed hug and poke with a stick <--that's the one
Edition Pub. Date: July 2012Publisher: Penguin Group
9780670023486Source: Gift from a blogging friend.