Thursday, October 11, 2012

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness — Audiobook Review

Recorded by Penguin Audiobooks
Narrated by Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 24 hours 30 minutes


** Spoiler alert! Some spoilers for the first book, A Discovery of Witches, may lie ahead. **

When we last left Diana and Matthew, they were about to step into the past and travel backwards in search of Ashmole 782, that elusive manuscript that holds portentous information for vampires, witches and demons alike. Here in Shadow of Night, we pick up right where we left off as Diana and Matthew travel back in time to Elizabethan England, where Diana must search out a witch in order to learn how to correctly tap into her powers as well as search for the manuscript. For Matthew, a centuries-old vampire, the past holds no secrets and he knows just what he will be facing, but for Diana, the trip is both alluring and frightening. Matthew seems to know some very important people, yet not all of them are onboard with his and Diana’s relationship. And one mischievous and very well-known man may destroy the couple with only a scant word to the wrong person. It’s here in Elizabethan England that the couple realize it won’t be easy to locate Ashmole 782 or to find a witch that can teach Diana the things she needs to know. But as they travel over the ocean to new places in the past, they threaten to disrupt the future; and when Diana realizes that she is more powerful than she could have ever imagined and that she’s closer to Ashmole 782 than anyone ever thought, both figuratively and literally, the heat is on to close the rent in time that the couple has made and get back to their rightful lives in the twenty-first century. Blending alchemy, magic and history into one stunning brew, Deborah Harkness gives her hungry readers the story that so many have waited for, and she does it gloriously.

Upon turning the last page of A Discovery of Witches, I groaned aloud. "What! That’s it?" I said. Harkness ended the book with a wildly intriguing cliffhanger, and while I was a bit angry, I was even more excited that the next book would eventually come and my questions would be answered. And so I waited, and waited, and waited some more, until finally the book hit the shelves. When Sandy found an audio copy in her mailbox from the wonderful folks over at Penguin Audio, she lent it to me right away. I was so very excited! The narration is done by the same narrator as the first, Jennifer Ikeda. I loved her voice and felt that she embodied Diana perfectly. She was also crazy good at capturing the voices of the other players, especially the Emperor, whom Ikeda voiced with high-strung levity. She was a perfect choice for this book and made the listening experience breeze by.

One of the things that I really loved about this book was the fact that Diana and Matthew have matured so much since the first one. Matthew no longer acts controlling with Diana, and when he does, she lets him have it. I loved Diana’s fire and her intense wonderment at the things she was seeing in the past. Listening to this book was like watching a modern day woman step back through the pages of history, and though some have derided the book for Harkness’ use of so many famous personages of the age, I felt that it was delightful to see history reinvented a bit. I knew of a few of these famous people, but since I’m not as well versed in Elizabethan society as in other parts of history, a good amount of people and places were new to me. One never knew who would step into the page, and that excited me and made me eager to keep listening.

The crux of this story revolves around locating the missing manuscript and finding another witch to teach Diana how to use her newly developed powers, but this book was more than that. Matthew has secrets. A lot of them, and he knows that by taking Diana to the past, she will uncover some very dark things about her husband. There will also be reunions and retributions that the couple must face, and for Diana, the impossible comes to life over and over again. I loved the unpredictability that Harkness created for her readers, and the storytelling was solid and very tight. Ashmole 782 is not the beating heart of this novel; that place goes to Diana, as she discovers and rediscovers herself and her husband, Matthew.

Harkness has a great command of darkness and light in this tale and uses her skill rather boldly, creating new and exciting situations for her readers to intoxicate themselves with. The impossible becomes possible, and Diana grows more than she ever hoped she would. She must also learn to let go and say goodbye to a very special person in her life, a person who has shaped her and made her the fierce yet loving person that she is today. Matthew too must come from behind the shadows and face up to the truth that he has hidden from Diana, and it’s not pretty. Time after time, he must face up to the man he has been versus the man he is today. As their love deepens, it’s also tested again and again.

Lovers of this series, don’t hesitate! Pick this book up and fall in love all over again. It’s solidly entertaining and full of some very unique surprises, and just as in the first book, there are some real scoundrels to keep Matthew and Diana embedded in time and in danger. I’m anxiously awaiting the last book in this series because there are more hidden gems that need to be sorted out and I can’t wait to find out what happens next with Diana and Matthew. A excellent and very fun read. It will be one of my favorites this year. Highly recommended!

14 comments:

Suko said...

"The impossible becomes possible..." From your review, I can tell this is a very engaging and original series. It sounds wonderful! I hope the remaining book in the series is equally enthralling.

Audra said...

I love your enthusiasm for this one (I skimmed to avoid any possible spoilers) -- I totally got off to a rocky start with the first one and put it down -- but I want to give it another ry!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I'm pretty excited to get this audio and load it up and listen to it. I really enjoyed the first book (even though some of it really made me roll my eyes) but I just wish it weren't so DARNED LONG!!!

Wall-to-wall books said...

Ahh finally! I read this one as soon as it came out! I got an advance copy, I was so excited!
T too am hooked! I did like the first one a little better. And I think they are a little too long. But... I do love them and can't wait for the 3rd!

Marg said...

I liked the first book better than this one, but I will still be waiting for the third book with great anticipation.

Athira said...

I had to skim through your review, because I haven't yet read the first one, and I may read it. So glad that this series is working! I will have to pick it up soon.

Jenners said...

Wow … this is one enthusiastic review! I read the first book not knowing that it was a first of a series and kept worrying about how she was going to wrap up the story -- that cliffhanger just killed me!! I know I'll read this as some point but I didn't fall in love with the book enough the first time to rush out and get it. Great review though … you have me wanting to definitely read it.

Beth F said...

I loved this one too! And I listened to it too. I can't wait for the third book.

Vasilly said...

I haven't read this one yet though I keep meaning to. You're right, the cliffhanger of the first book was so good. I kept thinking about everyone, including the house, long after I finished it.

Ana @ things mean a lot said...

I'm not sure if this series is for me (I'm afraid I may be all vamped out), but I'm glad to hear you had such a good time with volume two :)

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

I'm not good at waiting for books and I don't think I've done that before, because most of the books I got them by serendipity.

I not much a fan of 'fantasy' but i love this.

Marie said...

I'm glad to hear you liked this so much! sounds perfect for a fantasy reader or any reader!

softdrink said...

I had fun with this one, even though I thought it was long on descriptions and short on actual plot. But I'm still looking forward to the next book!

Buried In Print said...

I've heard some mixed responses to this one, but I'm wondering now if that's because they weren't entirely "sold" on volume one; either way, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.

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