This Week, I Read…Deborah Harkness’s Shadow of Night

There are a few characters in literature whom I wish death upon. In my real life, I don’t wish death on anyone—all manner of petty karmic things, but not death. I’m a psychopath, but only literary (pun intended). My list: Dolores Umbridge. Ramsey Bolton. Mr. Rochester. Rose the Hat. And now, Matthew de Clermont. He’s controlling and manipulative. It’s obvious that Diana is never going to leave him unless he’s dead. She’d do really well without him, going off and living her best life. This week, I read Deborah Harkness’s book, Shadow of Night, the second installment of the All Souls Trilogy. I reviewed the first book a few weeks ago, and was a bit steamed about Matthew, then, too.

Here’s the tea— Matthew decides that Diana isn’t safe in present day. So, he decides to take her elsewhere, using her newly-discovered time-traveling powers. Somewhere that she’ll be “safe.” So he takes her, his beloved, a witch, to England in 1590. WHERE THEY BURN WITCHES. Brilliant idea, kid.

He takes her there because he is essentially, controlling everything—he’s got friends in high places. He’s a spy, and he’s one of the three vampires on the Congregation. He’s arrogant enough to think that he can keep her hidden. Furthermore, he takes her to where women were expected to obey their men. He wants to put her in her place and keep her there, and all of 1590’s British society agrees with him.

At one point, he even tells her: “I know you’re itching for independence, but the next time you decide to take matters into your own hands, promise you’ll discuss it with me first.” (252)

I thought, excellent—we’ll see her get mad. Does she? No. She marries him. She obeys. I know that some women find having a protector to be romantic. I believe that this is one ideal which should go where it belongs—in the dust. I recently read a quote by Terry Crewes—he said that you cannot love someone and control them (paraphrased). What is witchcraft if not the embracing of female empowerment?

Diana’s new friend, poet and alchemist, Mary Sibley says: “We women own nothing absolutely, save what lies between our ears” (271).

But, if you think about it, Diana doesn’t even have that, because she and Matthew start sharing each other’s thoughts when he starts drinking her blood. She tries to make us believe that this is a beautiful thing that brings them closer, but now he’s literally consuming her.

What is wrong with romance that our romantic heroes are so disappointing? Because that’s still what the All Souls Trilogy is—a romance. What, you may be wondering, is keeping me reading? Harkness is a fabulous and creative writer. Her ability to draw in readers and craft characters and plot is astounding. And there is something thrilling about the idea of time travel. I just really don’t like Matthew de Clermont. I’ll be taking a bit of a time-out before I read Book Three. I have quite a bit of anger worked up. I’m going to go eat my feelings and read a few graphic novels, I think.   

Image Credit: Joshua Ghostine

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