Book Review

The Book Of Life

The Book of Life

  • Author: Deborah Harkness
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: July 15, 2014
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Series: All Souls Trilogy #3

CONTENT WARNING: mention of rape, violence, blood, mention of miscarriage, death, torture, mention of death of a child

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The great adventure culminates here.

Eagerly awaited by fans around the world, The Book of Life brings the magic and suspense of the All Souls Trilogy to a deeply satisfying conclusion. What did the witches once discover? Why was this secret encoded in a mysterious book called Ashmole 782 and then chased through the centuries by daemons, vampires, and the witches themselves? How can spellbound witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Claremont fulfill their love and their mission, on contested ground and with the weight of their very different histories pulling them apart?

In The Book of Life Diana and Matthew time travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved 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 palatial homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to Venice and beyond, the couple at last learns what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

This book was the perfect ending for this series. I just wanted to start out by saying this. Also, I figured I should give a warning that this review will include spoilers for earlier books in the series, although I promise not to include any spoilers for this book in my review (as always).

Matthew and Diana have stuck out some very difficult things through the beginning of their relationship, but I think what makes this relationship so appealing is that it’s such a healthy one. They talk to each other, they offer mutual support, and they openly discuss issues before deciding on a solution, for the most part. They’re relationship goals, and I adore the way that they just manage to add people to their makeshift family. And when you’re in the family, they don’t turn their back. Healthy relationships are a beautiful thing to see in stories, whether it’s a romantic one or a family relationship.

“It was a welcome reminder that, different though we might be, we were a family of sorts—no stranger or more idiosyncratic than thousands that had come before us.”

And in this story, we learn so much more about the characters and the forces that brought them together. Because there’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved in everything that goes on in this story. It’s not just the actions that the characters themselves take, but the steps they took in the past, as well as those of all the people they’ve surrounded themselves with:

“Unbeknownst to Matthew or me, the Bishops and the de Clermonts had been working for years, even centuries, to bring us safely together: Philippe, Gallowglass, my father, Emily, my mother.”

But more so than the relationships, we are brought along on this massive mystery with the characters. They’ve been on the hunt for Ashmole 782 since book 1, which is now understood to be the Book of Life. And as they close in on it, there’s no shortage of action. Diana is trying to track down the lost pages and the book itself so she can put it back together and find out the secrets it holds, while Matthew and his team is trying to figure out the secrets within the pages, which actually turns out to be fairly gruesome:

“The witches believed that it contained the first spells ever cast, the vampires that it told the story of how they were first made. Daemons thought the book held secrets about their kind, too. I had possessed the book too briefly to know which, if any, of these stories were true—but Matthew, Gallowglass, and I knew that whatever else the Book of Life contained paled in comparison to the genetic information bound within its covers. For the Book of Life had been fashioned from the remains of once-living creatures: The parchment was made from their skin, the inks contained their blood, the pages were held together with creature hair and binding glue extracted from their bones.”

I loved everything about this book. The characters feel so real, and the world building is incredible. It gave me a peek into how the other half lives, as I stepped into the castles and massive houses, incredible libraries, and traveled across countries I’ve never been to with the characters. It almost felt as if I was right there with them, since the writing is so descriptive and vivid, without being overly so or flowery. Harkness has struck the perfect balance, and I’m devastated to let this series go. 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 14

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