Shadow of Night (All Souls Series #2) by Deborah Harkness Publisher/Year: Penguin Books, 2012 Format: Paperback Pages: 581 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Drawn to each other despite long-standing taboos, these two other-worldly beings found themselves at the center of a battle for a lost, enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.
Book two of the All Souls trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night. The pair’s mission is to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different–and vastly more dangerous–journey.
What I thought
This is definitely something unusual for me to say, but I think this is a case where I actually enjoyed the sequel much more than the first book. I mean, she only ate eggs and toast once, for starters–yes, I counted. But seriously, there was much more that I enjoyed about the story this time around. I won’t go into too much detail–I like to keep it kind of short and sweet when it comes to reviewing sequels. This time around, my only complaint seems to be one that I’ve had since starting this trilogy–I have a rough time jiving with Harkness’s writing style. There just seems to be this disjointedness to the plot where something would happen, and I’d skim back a page or two, convinced I had somehow missed something. Or I’d spend so much time trying to analyze some plot point for it to turn out to have absolutely no bearing on the story. Considering the writing style and my disconnect, I really think it’s just me or the timing of my read. Plenty of people love these books. And I really did love so much about this installment. I loved everything about their trip to Elizabethan London–from the various members of the School of Night to Diana’s witchy lessons to their detour to Sept Tours. Again, I’m being intentionally vague here. I will say that I’m actually quite sad that they had to go back to the present and leave this cast of characters behind. I’m definitely ready to dive into the next book after that absolutely abrupt cliffhanger at the end.
As a whole, I enjoyed Shadow of Night much more than I did A Discovery of Witches. In reading some reviews on here, it seems like this is a pretty polarizing set of books. And even though I enjoyed book #2 more than book #1, I still wouldn’t say I love these books, at least on this, my first read through. I’d say if these books sound like they’re up your alley, maybe borrow them from a friend or the library.
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Series #1) by Deborah Harkness Publisher/Year: Penguin Books, 2011 Format: Paperback Pages: 579 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
Deep in the heart of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Diana Bishop–a young scholar and the descendant of witches–unearths an enchanted alchemical manuscript. Wanting nothing to do with sorcery, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery has set a fantastical underworld stirring, and soon a horde of daemons, witches, and other creatures descends upon the library. Among them is the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire with a keen interest in the book. Equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense, A Discovery of Witches is a mesmerizing and addictive tale of passion and obsession that reveals the closely guarded secrets of an enchanted world.
What I thought
I had a major love-hate relationship with A Discovery of Witches. On one hand, I devoured this book and cannot wait to start Shadow of Night, and on the other hand, the few complaints that I had about this book drove me absolutely insane.
Let me begin with my grievances. I don’t want to give the wrong impression–I hate that I have any complaints at all because I wanted to love this book. And I think I would have if it hadn’t been for these few things. Diana was my biggest love-hate issue with this book. I loved that she was intelligent and independent and feisty and stubborn, but I seriously thought I was going to lose my mind if I had to read about her fainting or being carried around by Matthew or MAKING TOAST OR TEA one more time. First of all, why the damsel in distress thing? She was adamantly portrayed as anything BUT–so when she constantly fainted over everything, it was just too contradictory. And as a 5’7″ woman, I’m going to tell you right now, my 6′ husband cannot carry me around. It has nothing to do with my weight–I’m simply too tall to be carried around like a child. Also, I LOVE a lot of detail in a book, but for crying out loud, does Diana eat anything besides eggs and toast?! Onto Matthew–I think my problem with him was his over-the-top possessiveness and his tendency to boss Diana around without any explanation. Granted, I suppose this can be explained away by his “vampire nature.” But what it comes down to with the both of them is that I just like to see more growth from characters. I’m sincerely hoping that since this story was originally slated as a trilogy that it just comes down to this first book being more of an introductory setup. Fingers crossed for character growth in book #2!
The other issue I had, I’m a little less irked by, but I know that this is a make-or-break deal for other readers, so I have to bring it up. I was not a big fan of the insta-love…I feel like I HAVE to be missing something. Their relationship was sweet, but I missed the passion. When they first met, and even through their first few interactions, I couldn’t figure out whether they liked each other, and then, BOOM, next thing I know, it’s :::SPOILER::: “I love you” and now we’re married. Umm…what? And the whole not having sex thing was BONKERS to me. On some level, I “get” it, but I just think it felt like a gimmicky way to keep readers reading. :::END SPOILER:::
Now that I’m done bitching–it probably seems like I didn’t even like this book, but I really did enjoy it, and I’m truly looking forward to the next book, so let me spend some time describing what I loved about this read.
I loved that this book read like a blend of an adult Twilight, The Historian, and Outlander. Fans of any of those books will find plenty to love here. Deborah Harkness writes with such a rich attention to detail that I easily found myself wholly immersed every time I sat down to read. I love the feeling when I’m so into a book that when I put the book down, I have to almost step back into reality, and I felt that big time with A Discovery of Witches. I’m a fairly slow reader, but I had this feeling like I was devouring this book. I’d look up after 100 evocative detail but also to the fact that the world she built was just so damn fascinating. The way she told this story was utterly enthralling, simply put. The blend of vampires, witches, daemons, history, science, romance, alchemy, evolution, reproduction, magic, and time travel was incredible. I loved it! This first book was heavier on vampires and vampire lore, but I’m hoping that, given how this one ended and Diana’s next task, we’ll learn more about witches because their magic is seriously COOL. And can I just say I absolutely ADORED the Bishop house and Diana’s aunts? Another thing I appreciated about the world building was that Harkness’ love for this world she created was 100% evident, so I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing where she takes the story next.
So, as you can see, I had conflicting feelings about a few aspects of this book, but as a whole, I really, really enjoyed this read. I can already tell that this series is one that I’ll revisit every once in a while. I know I’ve gone on and on about the couple things that I had issues with, but I was able to look past them and completely immerse myself in this story. A Discovery of Witches ended on a MAJOR cliffhanger, so I’m very glad that I already have my hands on a copy of Shadow of Night! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more about witches, more character growth, and more of this wonderful world Deborah Harkness created.
The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey Publisher/Year: Thomas Dunne Books, 2019 Format: Hardcover Pages: 471 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goodreads
An unforgettable historical novel about true love found and lost and the secrets we keep from one another
Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, while running from the life her parents have planned for her.
Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who is drawn into Selina’s orbit one fateful night, beginning a chain of events that will have a profound effect on them both. But talent and ambition are not enough to earn Lawrence a place in Selina’s gilded world, and there are consequences for girls like her who break the rules. When tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what her head tells her is safe over what her heart knows is right.
Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, Iona Grey’s The Glittering Hour is an epic novel of passion, heartache, and loss.
What I thought
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Thomas Dunne Books for the free finished copy of this book in exchange for an honest review to be featured as part of the blog tour.
Let me begin this review by simply stating that this book made me cry. More than once. I finished it this morning around 5:30 AM, sitting in my bed before work, with silent tears rolling down my face. Maybe to some this doesn’t sound like much, but for me, that means this book was a big deal. I’m a weeper–I weep at the merest commercial, but I very rarely shed tears over a book. So for me to cry in response to this story, that should tell you that this is, indeed, a special book.
Make no bones about it, The Glittering Hour is a slow-burn of a heartbreaking novel about love–love found, love lost, and the definition of what it truly means to love. This rich, evocative story reminded me of The Notebook and, at times, The Time Traveler’s Wife, although The Glittering Hour is strictly historical fiction. Iona Grey’s simple yet lush writing style transported me to the England of the mid-1920s and the mid-1930s, squarely between two World Wars. London came to dazzling life, and so did the struggling, foreboding Blackwood Park.
What made this book so touching and moving to me, though, was the characters. I became attached to bright, feisty Selina and brooding but passionate Lawrence. And even though I guessed how their story would end fairly early on, I still hoped with my heart of hearts for another outcome because their love was so romantic and intense and sweet and believable and true. I will take a step back, however, and say that while certain aspects of this story were predictable, there were enough that weren’t to keep the story moving. Back to the characters. I loved dear, sweet Alice and my heart absolutely ached for her. I was also very fond of Polly and Mr. Patterson. My only complaint with this book, and what kept it from five-star status, was that I wished the rest of the characters had been a little more fleshed out and a little less black and white.
With that being said, I think fans of historical fiction will definitely want to add The Glittering Hour to their winter TBR. This would be the perfect read for a long winter day spent cozied up by the fire. The Glittering Hour releases Tuesday, December 10, 2019 and has been picked as a BOTM December 2019 selection. You’ll want to make sure that you don’t miss out on this one!
About the author
IONA GREY is the author of the award winning Letters to the Lost. She has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.