This series has literally become my literary cat-nip, or really the most engaging Elizabethan History survey course that I’ve had the pleasure to take. Spoilers are sure to crop up in this review, so if you haven’t read the other, I implore you to not read this review just for your own good. Anyways, Shadow of Night, happens to be a direct sequel to the Discovery of Witches, which many of you evidenced my complicatedly mixed feeling about when I initially begin reading the book. For some reason, I thought the details of the domestic lives of both Matthew Clairmont and Diana Bishop in Discovery of Witches were a bit superfluous, thus these descriptions at the beginning of the first novel ended up severely affecting the pace. Eventually, Diana Bishop begins to discover her magical powers, and she inadvertently finds an ancient, alchemical text that is called “Ashmole 782,” that happens to be a very contentious text for the Congregation.As a reminder to readers of the first book, the Congregation is a legal organization of witches, vampires, and daemons that try to control knowledge of their existence among the “muggles.” (the mundane humans are not called “muggles,” but the word I think has officially entered the literary lexicon). Without describing even more pivotal plot points, Diana and Matthew must travel back to Elizabethan England to procure “Ashmole 782,” in order to revolutionize and innovate the rigid rules of the “Congregation.”
As with the first novel, Deborah Harkness seems skilled in constructing a very durable surface story-line, where there are many deeper complexities that under-gird the plot. Even more impressive, the historical details that she utilizes to bring Elizabethan England to life are truly mind-blowing; her credentials as a historian with her PhD are put into good use not to make these historical details abstruse, but fully animated and important to the flow of the plot. None of the exposition ceases to obstruct the flow of the plot, and the aesthetic details of the houses, flowing gowns, and other regal, Elizabethan England clothes, are tastefully described and never become far too decorous and vomit-worthy. Once the characters are transported to England, the plot seems even more lively and energetic than the first novel: this book is even more complicated and is filled with much more political intrigue.
For those who were often dismayed by the Twilight-esque elements that ran the risk of being puerile at the beginning of the first novel, this book continues to advance the characters and their complex relationships with other rich characters to a far deeper level of complexity than Stephenie Meyers is capable of accomplishing in my personal opinion. For this reason, it would be inaccurate to just define this novel and its fantastic predecessor as Twilight imitations. While the beginning of the first novel with its excessive, saccharine details were definitely a bit too Twilight-esque for my tastes, Deborah Harkness does improve things by the end of that novel, and stunningly conceives even more layers in Shadow of Night to create what has become a multi-layered series that really should not be called just another “vampire romance” series. The relationship between Diana and Matthew had many more complications in it,and their separate characters outside the context of their relationship were meticulously shaped like all the other auxiliary characters to be more than just caricatures There were so many poignant moments in the middle bursting with very intense emotions;these well-written sequences that had me wiping tears away embarrassingly at a Starbucks a few weeks ago testifies to the Deborah Harkness`s authorial maturity.
As we learn more about Matthew Clairmont, the erudite biochemist, we learn that he is a deeply paradoxical figure, and he wasn’t always the open-minded vampire who is willing to share a deep bond with a witch. Intriguingly,Matthew and Diana share a relationship that is very alchemical, and it is this deep, subversive passion between a witch and a vampire that could effect unprecedented, controversial change to the world in the future. Interestingly, they must move towards the past, or a much earlier stage in the process of alchemy in order to closely scrutinize themselves in a world that is not very different from their own. In some ways though, their deeper selves are much more transparent and easily comprehensible in Elizabethan England, which is a world where the border between magic and material reality is blurred. It is so hard for me to articulate the literary developments in this book really cleverly are written as slow,methodical alchemical experiment. In the final novel, we will hopefully see the momentous results of this experiment or a very intelligent series that has been blithely written off as a Twilight clone.
I’m really excited for the next book, and I hope Deborah Harkness continues to deftly craft yet another book that is filled with so much literary gold!
Contest Details: Do you want to win a copy of Shadow of Night,by Deborah Harkness? If you leave a comment on this post with your email address (1), and (2)become a watcher of this blog via Google (Sidebar on the right of this blog, which lists the number of people watching this blog), you are eligible for the contest! The Deadline is 9/5/12, so you better hurry and be sure to do those two things to be entered into the contest. The winner will be randomly chosen 9/6/12, and I’ll be sure to email them afterwords. Good Luck!