Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

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.     –   From Goodreads

My Rating:  ★★★★

My Thoughts:  

So concludes the All Souls trilogy. I can’t believe it’s over! I’ve loved this series right from the very beginning, so I was looking forward to reading this book, but also felt reluctant to keep reading as the conclusion approached. In a way I wish I’d started on this series late, so that all instalments were available; I would have read straight through the beginning to end, and am planning to do just that at some point in the future.

This is the kind of book that I wish I knew someone else who had read it at the same time, so we could discuss at lengths all the best bits, of which there were many.
Alas, I don’t know that someone, and so all my enthusiasms will hopefully spill out in this review. Don’t worry, anything spoilerish will go under a cut, so read on without fear of being spoiled.

This book grabbed hold of me and just wouldn’t let go. The writing is detailed, vivid and flowing. I love the depth to which the settings are described – I can almost picture Sept-Tours (my favourite location of the series) in my head, and can imagine it bought to life onscreen easily. I also loved the atmosphere of the Bodleian, the grandeur of Venice and the desolation of Chelm.

There are some wonderful supporting characters throughout this series, and in particular in this book, and the author really does a wonderful job of bringing them to life, with beautifully described backstory (I for one could read a whole book devoted to Gallowglass, and another one featuring Philippe and Ysabeau, oh, and yet one more focusing on the Knights of Lazarus and their deeds and adventures through the ages). I also ended up really liking Baldwin as a character too.

The threat against Diana, Matthew and their family is suitably chilling, and the villain of the piece is a nasty character indeed. I couldn’t wait to witness his eventual fate, and that of his co-conspirators.

My main criticism, if you could call it that, is that this book does have a satisfying conclusion. Everything does have a definite end, and if we are unfortunate enough never to have another glimpse into the lives of Diana and Matthew, well, the ending provided here is certainly good. I would dearly love to read of Philip and Rebecca, and think there’s definitely potential to delve into their story.

Now to the things I particularly loved about this book. Beware of spoilers from this point onwards:

I liked the way it was revealed that Gallowglass had fallen in love with Diana, through her finding Corra tattooed down his arm, and wanting to see the rest of the tattoo.

I absolutely loved Philippe’s war-themed story, and the revelation that it was actually Benjamin who subjected him to such horrible tortures during the war. We never see Philippe in life during this book, and yet his presence is always there. I also loved the way the book opened, with Philippe as a ghost, watching over happenings at Sept-Tours.

The scene in the library, where the Book of Life is finally located and restored is wonderful. I loved the whole atmosphere of the library, and Corra flying free to locate the book and gain her own freedom. Diana actually becoming the Book was pretty spectacular too, and I would love to find some fan art picturing Diana as she was after the transformations caused by the Book and her weaver’s cords becoming part of her too.

Diana taking on the Congregation in Venice, assuming her seat at the table and winning over the more dubious members to support her cause was another highlight.

The final showdown at Chelm with the villainous Peter Knox literally torn apart by magic was exciting to read, and I was glad Diana had vengeance for all the trouble he’d caused and the deaths he was responsible for. Likewise, I think Benjamin had a fitting end too, at the hands of Diana’s justice. In the end she was a really strong lead, saving Matthew from a terrible fate. It was a nice balance to his occasional over-protectiveness of Diana throughout the series, that in the end she was the one to save him, and that he acknowledged she could do so by means of the chess related message he managed to sneak past Benjamin. (I don’t play chess, so didn’t fully understand the details, but I think I got the general idea).

I really am sad to see this series end, but at least now I can go back to the beginning and start again, reading straight through, so its not all bad.


I really am sad to see this series end, but at least now I can go back to the beginning and start again, reading straight through, so its not all bad.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

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