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Customer Review

344 of 402 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What the heck happened to this series?, July 25, 2012
This review is from: Shadow of Night: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) (Hardcover)
I reread A Discovery of WItches to refresh my memory. Matthew and Diana are going back in time to find Ashmole 782 and find someone to teach Diana to better understand and control her power. Got it. Imagine my surprise when I started Shadow of Night and neither of those things happened until page 280, except in snippets that felt like tossaways to help the reader remember why the characters had traveled back to Elizabethan England in the first place. Oh, they weren't there to meet historical figures and notice every aspect of daily life and describe it in excruciating detail? Somebody should have told Deborah Harkness that. Like maybe her editor.
My biggest problem with this book, however, was that I didn't like the characters anymore. It turns out Matthew is not an intelligent, urbane scientist who is every woman's dream guy. Nope. He's actually an impulsive, indecisive screw-up with serious anger issues (who has somehow managed to be friends with many major historical figures of the time, be an indispensable adviser to the queen, AND a member of The Congregation). Actual quote from the book: "Matthew was taking charge, which meant that things were about to take their usual turn for the worse." Page 295. I rest my case. He also suffers from an inability to let go of events that happened over a thousand years ago. But one conversation with Diana and poof! Problem solved. Spare me.
Diana has become this meek, whiny airhead who is totally focused on fashion and minutia about running a household. And propping up her incapable husband, of course. Her major magical accomplishments in the first half of the book are making a quince shrivel and seeing colored lights in the corners. Every once in a while her "third eye" opens (and is it just me or do other people imagine this huge, Cyclopean eye popping out of the middle of her forehead when that happens? It's totally distracting.) and she sees something that is so obvious you have to wonder what the heck is wrong with her other two regular eyes. Then, she is suddenly in control of complex magic because she has colored strings. And I'm sorry, but I don't care what color string does what every time she uses magic. Find another way to describe what is happening.
The best character in the book is Matthew's father, Phillipe. Too bad he's only in one section and we already know he's not around in modern times. I have to hope that Harkness has something up her sleeve to pull this series out of the muck in the third book.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 25, 2012 1:46:35 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 25, 2012 1:47:16 AM PDT
booklver says:
PERFECT review of this awful book! You really described it perfectly!

Posted on Sep 5, 2012 12:10:07 PM PDT
Swamp Poodle says:
I got the same impression about the "third eye", so much so, that I've placed a request for the first book at my public library to re-read it.

I also found the fictional characters much more likeable and believable than the non-fictional ones (Marlowe, Raleigh, Elizabeth, et al. I'm looking at you!)

And I was more interested in what happened during May 2010 than I was 1591!

PS, Marcus was more interesting than Matthew and Diana.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2012 1:09:05 AM PDT
I agree with you 100%. I was so disappointed that Diana and Matthew were far more likable in the first book. I too wish that she had done more character development on Marcus because he did seem very interesting.

Posted on Sep 26, 2012 4:32:20 AM PDT
P. Wilson says:
This review was "on the mark". I couldn't have described it better. I was so disappointed in the various twist and turns away from their journey back into time because it made no sense. Their original purpose seemed to take a back seat to Matthew's unresolved issues. I hope the final of the trilogy is better than this second installment.

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 9:41:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 5, 2012 9:41:56 AM PDT
Babe says:
i didn't find diana or matthew likeable by the end of the first book, and i thought it was about 200 pages too long. however, i was intrigued by the prospect of them time travelling and thought i might pick up the second. after reading your review, i am definitely NOT reading the second book... i couldn't bear the minute details of 16th century life and possibly diana's new wardrobe (the turtlenecks and cardigans were enough!). thank you!

Posted on Oct 6, 2012 5:08:22 PM PDT
Searching says:
You expressed my own thoughts perfectly. I really wanted to like this book since I loved Discovery of a Witch and struggled through to the end just hoping something interesting would happen. Still, I look forward to her third book and hope it is as good as the first book of the trilogy.

Posted on Oct 24, 2012 10:35:07 PM PDT
E. Tsetlin says:
That's what i'm always afraid of when i begin a new trilogy... will it be eventful and realistic (within fantasy world of course :)) or will the author...again...will try to just stretch the story to make an extra sale? unfortunately, in most cases, that's what happens. Great pick up about all the annoying details Picky Pickle. We already wait for a book for a year, then pre-order and pay quite a bit of money.... i really don't mind if instead of 600-700 pages, there was only 400 but quality pages! If i wanted a trip to the ancient Europe and biography (one to question/argue with) of many historical characters, I would just buy their biography. Please stick to the story and not useless details that we could get in a history class or other type of literature. THanks!

Posted on Oct 28, 2012 11:05:18 AM PDT
Jude says:
This isn't a romance book. It's not a novel for young adults. It's not a Patterson potboiler mystery. It's a piece of historical literary fiction. Characters have dimensions. Dream man? Go read some Harlequin romances and leave this FANTASTIC book to those who can really grasp it.

Posted on Nov 4, 2012 4:49:51 AM PST
Kristen says:
*SPOILER* I completely agree with you! I kept thinking throughout the book "Wow! Blanca must have been some woman for him to be so hung up on her!" Ugh! I wanted to scream "Get over it!". When he told her of the night he and his first wife were first together, I felt so sorry for Diana. She is not the intelligent, confident woman we saw in ADOW; she is placid, and as you said, whiny (but so is Matthew)! I was so annoyed when she was impressed that Mary Sidney ran a household, raised children, AND had a laboratory all by the age of thirty!! This coming from a 33 year old tenured Yale professor who has written several books on the history of alchemy and is the foremost historian on the subject. She seems like an object to Matthew and I cannot gauge his regard for her. If she is his "soul mate" or the "love of his life", he sure does not act like it. He dwells on those he has loved in the past and he holds things against her that she has no control over. When she had a miscarriage, he claimed "I can't do this again" and refuses to touch her. What about Diana? This was her first loss (of a child), why does she have Matthew's previous wife's experiences held against her?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2012 1:58:33 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 6, 2012 2:12:18 PM PST
booklver says:
I have to disagree Jude. I'm not saying this author is not great with historical facts but I am saying she does not know how to create dimensions in characters. They feel very one dimentional to me in this book. There were too many thrown at me at once and not enough time building their personalities. I no longer even remotely recognized the main characters or liked them anymore (which means Harkness did not stay true to them). Also, the minute details about day to day life when they got to the past was odd because they should have hit the ground running for the answers they needed. Instead they bickered, focused on bullsh*t everyday stuff and just made me flat out bored. I wasn't looking for "romance" but I was looking for a good read. This book is easy to "grasp", in fact an 8th grader could get this book, the question is do you want a boring read? I very rarely get angry about wasting money on a book but I did regret buying this one. Just my thought on this & I did love the first book.
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