Book Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

Title: Shadow of Night
Author: Deborah Harkness
Published: 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 592
From: Walmart

The “paranormal romance” is now a thing, founded in the burst of popularity in young adult books based on magic, vampirism and the supernatural. Look at Barnes and Noble, the largest book store chain in America: they even have a “Teen Paranormal Romance” subsection in their young adult novel section. Clearly, it wouldn’t be long until there would be what I’ve dubbed the “adult paranormal romance,” beginning with Deborah Harkness’s novel A Discovery of Witches and continuing on with the sequel, Shadow of Night.

Shadow of Night (2012), the second novel of the All Souls trilogy, begins with Diana and Matthew traveling to a different time to learn more about the magical manuscript and to help Diana learn more about her power. They are swept to Elizabethan London, and the first section of the book is of the couple becoming acclimated to their new surroundings. While this is interesting historically, it lacks in action and magic. I personally loved reading about the made-up lives of Christopher Marlowe, Henry Percy, and Walter Raleigh, but it did get slightly boring after awhile because it felt like Harkness was taking her time getting to the magical action.

The one thing I absolutely hated about this novel, comparable only to the Twilight saga, is that Harkness used the idea of a vampire fathering children in a non-vampire. This idea has obviously already been used and, even though it’s used slightly differently, still brings up the scientific argument that vampires cannot conceive. Vampires become frozen in time forever, the workings of their bodies halt indefinitely. Just like in Twilight, where a stone-cold vampire that didn’t even need to breathe could father a child, Shadow of Night has a vampire father a child. Maybe Harkness feels she can get away with it because she changed vampire lore to suit her own story, where vampires kind of breathe and kind of have a heartbeat and therefore their sperm works the same as it did when they were living. If that’s the case, at least she changed her lore beforehand, unlike Stephenie Meyer, so I can’t really condone her decision.

My favorite part of Shadow of Night is towards the end, where Harkness inserts a scene with William Shakespeare and a note from Christopher Marlowe. I enjoy this scene because of the history behind it. The many theories behind who wrote Shakespeare’s plays include Christopher Marlowe: did Marlowe write some of them and Shakespeare took the credit, did they both work on them all and only one got the credit, or did Shakespeare really plagiarize? I thoroughly enjoy Harkness’s clever historical wit in this sense.

Overall, I did enjoy these novels, and I do recommend them to anyone with an interest in fantasy, vampires, magic, love, and adventure. These themes are all blended nicely within each other in A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, and I am definitely looking forward to the third and final installment of the All Souls trilogy.

Deborah Harkness’s novels are available at Barnes and Noble and She also has a blog, Good Wine Under $20.

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