Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shelf Life [adult]

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
@SPL: FIC Harkn

Fans of fantasy and paranormal romance well remember the big splash author Deborah Harkness made last year with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches. That book had it all - yoga, wine collecting, adventures in Oxford’s famed Bodleian Library, and a whirlwind romance with a handsome, brooding stranger who happened to be a vampire. To sweeten the pot, this wasn’t another plodding story about some hapless girl who falls for an immortal himbo with a mood disorder and an offshore bank account. No, heroine Diana Bishop is a witch, fearsome and powerful in her own right. Well, the good news is, she’s back.

Shadow of Night picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off, with Diana and Matthew landing in a heap in the 16th century, in search of Ashmole 782 - the manuscript that caused all the trouble in the first book. Deborah Harkness is an historian by trade, so the details on 16th century life are both bountiful and accurate.

The bad news is, these very details may bog down the book for some readers. Fans who found the first book flagged in the second half before finding its way to a mind-bending conclusion will probably also take issue with pacing in Shadow of Night’s first half. Fortunately, the action and witty humour that characterized the best parts of book one return by the second half of the book. For those who have been waiting with baited breath for more of Diana and Matthew, Shadow of Night will more than likely scratch the itch.

Certainly, fans of A Discovery of Witches who also love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will find lots to love in Shadow of Night - the tirelessly researched historical detail, time travelling, and a heroine coming into her strength are all appeal factors that cross over between the two series. That said, I wouldn’t recommend any readers new to the series start here. While I sense this series is headed for great things, Shadow of Night is certainly not as strong an offering as Discovery, and the fantasy universe Harkness has created won’t make much sense if read out of order. All in all, Shadow of Night is fun summer reading, but not essential to anyone not planning on following the series.

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on August 9th, 2012. Written by Shauna Thomas, Librarian.

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