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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) By Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)
by Deborah Harkness
Hardcover, 561 pages
July 15th 2014 by Viking Adult
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters fromA Discovery of Witches--with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

The All Souls Trilogy is the vast and sweeping saga detailing the perilous adventures of centuries-old vampire Matthew Clairmont and Yale professor turned reluctant witch Diana Bishop. The primary element propelling the trilogy is the pair’s pursuit of the ancient, terrible text The Book of Life. The book, coveted by all high-level daemons, witches, and vampires is made of living materials and contains the secret of each species’ origins. The implications are massive and Diana and Matthew place their lives on the line, enduring countless tragedies, to ensure the book lands in righteous hands. Published in 2014, The Book of Life was released in paperback this spring. 
Harkness’s tale is very much the thinking reader’s paranormal text. The author, like her main character, is a scholar and this is abundantly apparent in all three texts. The works are expertly researched and meticulously written. Part historical fiction, part scientific journal, part paranormal romance, All Souls is very much an investment in time and attention, but worth every minute. It’s not the kind of text (and I use “text,” because it’s so much more than a set of simple novels) upon which you need to truly focus. It took me a long time to complete The Book of Life because everyday life would easily disrupt the trajectory of the reading experience.

I don’t want to reveal too much about The Book of Life so as to avoid ruining the experience to readers new to the trilogy. Suffice it to say, the third installment of All Souls is very much soul-satisfying. I cried. Twice. At times I felt the book was written just for me with references to personal favourites Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac as well as Abstract Expressionist painter Clyfford Still. I found all three books tenderly and intimately written, abounding in detail. I adored the complete unfurling of Diana’s character as a truly self-possessed and richly talented witch and scholar. The relationship between Matthew and Diana is touching and deep. Although the reader is assured of the passion between the two, their physical romance is tastefully and subtlety written. Theirs is a true partnership. Their pursuit of The Book of Life is largely intellectual and I enjoyed their side-by-side research and scholarly repartee.

Although Diana and Matthew’s tale is largely concluded in this installment, there are definitely hints of works to come, though this may be wishful thinking. One of my favourite characters in the works was Gallowglass, the nephew of Matthew. I’m not sure if his rugged, tattooed, motorcycle-riding appeal is a nod to the typical male leads of the paranormal genre or a hint of a story to come. I hope for the latter. I’m just not sure he has the substance to carry a Harkness work. In addition, there are also the ever-present threats that have yet to be completely vanquished. This, however, instead of being a lead-in to a new series, could be more of a true reading of real-life; nothing is ever truly finished.

In the end, if you’re looking for something more substantive in what can sometimes be a very shallow pool, I suggest All Souls. For me, it ranks among my favourite works. This trilogy satisfies both the entertainment-seeker and literature-lover within me.

5 Sheep

Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Her publications include works on the history of science, magic, and alchemy. Her most recent scholarly book is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. She lives in Los Angeles.


  1. I have this one on my reader and am just trying to get to it! It had been so long since the first two books (which I LOVED). Did you struggle at all at the beginning of this book getting re-oriented?

  2. I have got to read Discovery,... I have it but I also have that unending tbr.
    But, "Ashmole" really? Is that a homonym?

  3. I have this on my "to read" list! Hope I can get to it soon. Great review!

  4. Terrific review. Can't wait to read this one!

  5. Actually, lindalou, I hadn't quite finished book two. So, I completed that first then moved on to Book of Life. That helped refresh the story for me. I found when I started reading details, though not all, came back pretty quickly. I'm always surprised by what I remember.

    Ashmole, Steph, refers to Elias Ashmole who was the attributed owner (?) of the text, I believe. It's only a name. The book quickly becomes known as The Book of Life with many characters fighting for ownership.

    Thanks Jeanie and Linda! Overall, I do recommend being in the right mind set for this series. It's an investment, but well worth it. Quite above the standard fare.