Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I kept going back and forth between wanting to give this book 3 stars and thinking that there are enough things I like about it for 4.
I don’t like time travel stories. I just don’t. Not that I wouldn’t want to try it myself, I just don’t like reading about it.
There were also too many details in this I’m still not sure how I feel about. The treatment of time travel and things they can and can’t change felt…strange. Balancing somewhere on the border of ‘wrong’ and ‘maybe okay?’. The discussion of children, when they considered a lot of points but not the ‘maybe not while we are on business in the 16th century?’ idea. Too many characters left in the air. The representation of history and language use (I’m glad none of them are languages I work with, so I remain blissfully ignorant of any mistakes that there might be).
On one hand, I know that I would like this book even less if it had more drama/action/dangers, but on the other, this one is just too slow and repetitive. They keep repeating the same dance over in over, meeting new characters, repeating same questions and steps, without any real progression… the first book was slow too, but the (modern) Oxford part was the one I enjoyed the most out of the two books combined.
I hated the parts that involved monarchs. They were disgusting. These were the times where I contemplated skipping forward and thought I’d have to give this book 3 stars.
Other than that, even though this book is long and slow, and irritated me on more than one occasion, there’s still something about it that kept me firmly in it’s world and didn’t even really let me skip through the least favourite part. And that is why I put 4 stars after all. There is still something I really like about this world and the feeling, the taste, of this series.
(Though I’ll have to wrestle with a lot of apprehension before I’ll be ready to pick up the 3rd book and finish it.)

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American Witch (American Witch, #1)

American Witch by Thea Harrison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve wavered between 3 and 4 stars for a while, and I might still change my mind… While I did enjoy most of the story and characters, there is a couple of points that really bothered me:
1) The Russian.
Rasputin is just such a tired and overused figure, when I saw the name I practically groaned. Then there’s the language… It made me feel like watching those tv dramas that think their audience are too stupid to care if they use Chinese actors who can’t pronounce Japanese words to act as Japanese and have a ton of American actors speak some kind of mumbo-jumbo pretending to sound Russian or any other kid of Slavic language. Okay, none of the words used were actually wrong, but… It just felt unnatural. For example, replacing word ‘darling/honey’ where it would fit in English sentences with Russian version is just not enough. Would it fit there if the sentence was in Russian? Would it be used in such way at all? Would it be natural for a male who lived in pre-revolution Russia to use these specific words and in such way? I’m not an expert, but my language instincts tell me ‘no’. It just felt unnatural. It’s a huge pet peeve for me.
2) The treatment of the main male character that is getting very old and tired.
We get an enigmatic, whole, character who is attractive in his drive and independence. The whole reader-favorite ‘dark and dangerous’ package. But then as the book unfolds he slowly gets morphed and forced to fit some kid of ‘ideal image from a woman’s perspective’, until at the very end he only says and does things like ‘a woman’ would want him to (with all the ridiculous proposals and sitting quietly in the background). This made me a little angry. For one, not all women like and want same things. For another, it just feels fake, and the concept of the male character just giving up all that he was and had, and then making him fit into the life the female character just decided to choose for herself is unfair and tiring. I don’t like it and this story flow has been used a few too many times already.

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