The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness, All Souls Trilogy


Back Cover Blurb:

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’ 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.



I’ve completed this trilogy feeling a little perplexed. I had the opportunity to read other reviews and was greatly surprised at the negative thoughts of others. This series is definitely for the well read, especially with the historical aspects woven throughout it.

I also read a lot of complaints about all the characters coming and going throughout the series. It’s pretty hard to have an army and a coven with only a few characters. Come on people, keep up. There were many areas in the books that left unfinished business and loose plot ends, but who knows, maybe we’ll revisit some of them in future books.

I make it a point to never start a book until the entire series is finished.  What many may not know is that there was a discussion for a movie series about this trilogy and although nothing materialized yet, delays were incurred for the last book. When I start a series, I like to breeze through all the books once I start reading and have been known to do this even for a ten or twelve book series. I compare the flow, voice and plot from beginning to end of the all the books combined and this gives me a better appreciation for the story-line, character development and changes in setting than if I had to wait for the ‘next’ book out in the series which we all know can be up to a year or more. I wish all readers would do this.

As an author, the work involved when writing a series is unbelievable and a strict eye for detail is needed. If an author is going to take on a series, they need to be fully prepared when introducing twists to plots and new characters, to follow up with a satisfactory conclusion. I don’t believe Ms. Harkness was completely successful with this. However, she did leave matters in such a way as to leave the reader wondering if there will be more books out.

I completely get the Book of Life. I think it’s gruesome and horrific how the book was made but typically realistic considering the era its compilation took place. There wasn’t really anymore explanation as to how (spoiler) the book’s writing ended up in Diana, no more than an explanation was needed why her threads of magic ended up inside her. If you understood the thread relocation, then you should understand the writing’s from the Book of Life ending up where they had. If you don’t, then re-read it. Ms. Harkness is only truly guilty of writing as an academic which explains her often use of complicated theories and science to explain something somewhat minor. The only thing I found a bit weak was her use of DNA knowledge in the way she had to explain the existence of witches, vampires and daemons.  I did find it interesting how she ties in what she did use and how she used it by saying they were all human, just different. The irony of this statement didn’t go unobserved by this reader.

The only other aspect that fell flat with me, yup, it was Matthew.. again! UGH Although, I have to admit, I hated him the least in the third book. I understand how Harkness attempted to show  character arcs for both Diana and Matthew, ones that would show growth by the end of the third book; and, she did accomplish this feat. Diana started off wimpy and became strong, Matthew started off arrogant, and soooo many other things and he became more understanding and respectful by the end of the books. Ugh! I had actually thought she was going to kill off Matthew and leave Diana with Gallowglass, now there would have been a twist for you <wink>, <wink>… but in the end, I was able to tolerate Matthew… somewhat.

I like how Diana had grown by the end of the trilogy. She was indeed a great witch. I think her character would have benefited better from a stronger supporting secondary character, not so much a chauvinistic one. But in the end, she had become a well rounded witch, mother and academic.  In effect, she became what women today are always struggling with, personal issues, being a wife and a mom and trying to hold down a career… some would say that’s being a superwoman and stereotypically, what this male dominated world tends to think women should be.

I think it was clever to try and combine the real world with make believe, but in truth, there really isn’t any place in the ‘human’ world for witches, vampires and daemons, not because they shouldn’t be, but simply because our world wouldn’t make them realistic enough to believe in and endure. History gives evidence to this fact through folklore, legends and fables. Kudos to Ms. Harkness for making a grand effort in contradicting this belief. I was almost won over… almost.

I give this book:




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