**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Series: All Souls Trilogy #3
Published by Penguin, Viking on July 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Demons, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Witches
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The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Timesbestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches
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 from A 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.
With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches andShadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.
I’m a big fan of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy. The first book, A Discovery of Witches, completely sucked me into Oxford’s academic world, thick with vampires, witches, and daemons. At the center are Matthew Clairmont and Diana Bishop, a vampire and a witch, who, by the confines of a covenant, are outlawed from loving each other. But Diana is no ordinary witch and Matthew is no ordinary vampire. Together they might hold the key to great change but they are feared and hunted and they must protect themselves and their families as they search for the elusive “Book of Life,” a powerful text that is the key to the future of all the preternatural species. Sound good? It is. The All Souls Trilogy is such a richly detailed series, populated with hard to forget characters, that I was particularly excited to read The Book of Life, the final book in the trilogy.
A Shadow of Night, the second in the trilogy, was enjoyable but took me away from the contemporary world Harkness created, steeped in academia and history, and the characters I’ve come to love and adore. The Book of Life put me right back on track. We get to spend time with the secondary characters I’ve become obsessed with – Marcus, the scientist beach bum vampire; a contemporary Gallowglass, the sensitive Scottish warrior; Ysabeau, the vampire matriarch who you should fear; Sarah, the grumpy witch aunt; Hamish the daemon lawyer and Matthew’s best friend; Miriam, the snarky vampire scientist…the list goes on. This odd family of vampires, witches and daemons shouldn’t exist but it does. And it works so well. I want to be a part of it. There’s humor, genuine caring, and love. Harkness gives us more of characters like Chris Roberts, Diana’s best friend and a human who gets thrown into this world when he uses his scientific chops to help solve the mystery of a vampire blood disease; and Phoebe, Marcus’s fiancé and arts dealer, who bemoans the irreverent treatment the de Clairemonts give their vast treasure trove of priceless art and antiques. I also loved seeing characters from the past show up, one of whom was a warm surprise. This is the strongest and most beguiling aspect of Harkness’s world, and The Book of Life itself – the characters. I defy anyone to read this and not want to be a part of this oddball but somehow completely natural clan.
My other favorite aspect of this series is its academic world. I’m a nerd and I love that the characters in this series are academics. Matthew is a scientist and Diana is a historian and all answers are found through research and investigation; archives, papers, books, and letters, labs and experimentation are their tools. The Book of Life puts us back into this academic world as Diana continues to try to track down the mysterious tome that is the key to future of the supernatural world. She uses research skills and a little magic to track its whereabouts and each new discovery puts us closer to an answer. While you might think there can be little suspense in research, The Book of Life shows otherwise. Each clue leads to something, takes us someplace, and sometimes introduces a new character or brings back someone from the past.
The relationship between Diana and Matthew is the center of this trilogy and I like how it develops in The Book of Life. By the end of the second book, I was starting to tire of Matthew’s increased possessiveness of Diana but here, in this final story, we see Matthew fighting instincts and giving Diana the space she needs. I love how Diana’s independence doesn’t ebb; she’s strong and smart and powerful. And the best part is she finally trusts herself. Harkness has brought this character full circle – from fear to power and it is a lovely arc to witness. I also appreciate that Diana doesn’t always act on emotion. When she begins to react, she starts to think of what Philippe, Matthew’s father, told her, “Think and stay alive.” She uses that advice to great effect and I love the moments in which thought come before emotion, and how she uses it to her advantage.
This world is detailed, the story complicated and the cast is large. There is a darker tone in this book than in the others due to a killer who also searches for the book. It’s a compelling chase and the clock is ticking. This plot line adds to the tension and creates a true monster for the non-humans to stop. My one quibble is that sometimes the details of vampire politics, mores, and customs made my head spin. Once I thought I got something down, a new rule pops up, a new bit of history that has my head spinning again. However, the pacing felt right and, as a fan of the series, the questions I wanted answered, were answered; the finale’s I wanted to see were there. All except one…What will become of Gallowglass? My heart breaks for him in The Book of Life and if there is any character I want to see more from, it’s him. Harkness leaves his story, and a few other small details, open enough for me to hope (pray?) for another book. The Book of Life is a fantastic conclusion to a wonderful trilogy. 4.5 Howls!