Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It's strange how a story with so much potential can make it to publication without a firm editorial hand and an eye to saving some ink and paper. Some 14 years ago, when I was reading a then-new Anne Rice book, a librarian joked to me that she wondered if Ms. Rice had been compensated by word, and Harkness' second novel made me wonder the same. I felt that Harkness spent too much time introducing a jumble of characters, many of whom were of little importance to the plot and felt like they were shoved into the tale only to allow Harkness to use all the research she had put into Elizabethan England.
As with A Discovery of Witches, the whirlwind of characters confused the plot rather than aiding it. I know I am partially writing this knowing that the first half of A Discovery of Witches was well written and genuinely engaging, and consequently, I know Harkness can weave a decent tale, and I am ever disappointed at what feels like a NaNoWriMo-worthy feverish attempt to just get every thought down on paper.
However, this isn't my biggest criticism of Shadow of Night. In the wake of such literary atrocities as Fifty Shades of Gray and the Twilight drivel, another novel revolving around the repressed urges and pitiable nature of a privileged, able bodied, wealthy, white man and his somewhat abusive relationship with the woman he needs to possess and control, is less than riveting reading. It's really a bit more eye rolling, and frankly, a unhealthy. I don't think women need more heroines who make excuses for the ways in which the men around them control them. Similarly, I think the excessively flowery daydreamy emotive language, at times, crosses the line between narrative and ventures into the dreaded realm of purple prose.
All this said, I want to know what happens next, and in that regard, the novel is a success. As a matter of fact, it has made me pine for the first half of the first book in which the characters seemed so alive and independent that I may even have to go back and re-read that portion, carefully stopping before the trip to the states.
Go ahead and read it, just don't get your hopes up.
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