Book reviews: Shadow of Night and Ruins of Lace

Shadow of Night, by Deborah Harkness

This is the second book of the All Souls Trilogy – the first being A Discovery of Witches. I really enjoyed the first, but I found the second one a little harder to plough through. The book very much reminded me of the Outlander series, especially since in this one, Diana, a powerful witch trying to unlock the secrets of her magic and her lover Matthew, a 1500-year-old vampire, travel back in time to Elizabethan England and get caught up with the court intrigue going on in 1590.

I really like the plotline throughout the trilogy so far, but I found all the descriptions and historical facts  about the time period they are in to be a little overwhelming. The good part is that the book is really thoroughly researched; the bad part is I found it weighed down the book a little bit.

There were occasional teases here and there about what was going on in present-day, and I found those  parts were the most tantalizing for me. Actually, they make me all the more excited for the last book in the trilogy. I am excited to have all those questions answered, so I guess after all Harkness did what she set out to do.

 

The Ruins of Lace, by Iris Anthony

Another historical fiction set several centuries ago, back when lace was outlawed in France. Who had any idea that lace used to be considered so dangerous, and was so much more valuable because of that? Lace smugglers (yes, that was a thing!) were considered traitors to the throne. So of course there were many, and some of them had hearts of gold and really good reasons to be smuggling lace.

The story is told by many different characters – a girl forced to make lace in Belgium until she was rendered blind and hunchbacked at 30, the man blackmailed into smuggling lace to save the woman he loves, the poverty-striken count trying to rebuild a fortune. With so many people telling the story it could sometimes seem a little disjointed, but for the most part I thought it added a rich layer to the plot.

Most heartbreaking were the chapters narrated by a dog, raised to smuggle lace across the border and abused his entire life. Like, heartbreaking and I may have cried a little bit. Apparently, something like 40,000 dogs were killed in an attempt to cut down on lace smuggling back in the day. It’s enough to make you want to give your pooch a big hug.

Ruins of Lace was entertaining, but I’m actually happier in that it’s one of those historical fictions where I felt like I learned a lot – making up for the fact that I’m not reading more “serious” historical tomes.

Word of the day:

Alchemy: a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life; any magical power or process of transmuting a commonsubstance, usually of little value, into a substance of greatvalue.

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