Thursday, October 09, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Ghosts didn't have much substance. ~ Opening of The Book of Life


The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Viking Adult, 2014
Fantasy; 561 pgs

From the Publisher: 
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.
It did not take me long to purchase and read the final installment, The Book of Life, of the All Souls Trilogy when it went on sale.  I had been anxiously awaiting the conclusion to the trilogy I began reading back in 2012.  I thoroughly enjoyed A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, both books so very different from one another and yet delicious in details about characters I have come to love. And so it was with great anticipation that I began reading The Book of Life, both excited to see what would happen and sad to know the story would be coming to an end.

It is no wonder The Book of Life is over five hundred pages.  Deborah Harkness fills them well.  She continues to breath life into her characters and the world she began creating years ago, each growing and evolving with time and circumstance.  I love the depth she has gone to in building her world, the history, science, religion, and lore.  I found this final installment of Deborah Harkness's trilogy to be satisfying in every way--except perhaps I did not want to see it end.

Diana and Matthew are not the same people they were when they first stepped back in time.  They have returned changed and they face a whole new set of problems along with the old ones.  The Book of Life picks up hot on the heels of where Shadow of Night left off.  I liked the way the author captured the suddenness of it all for Diana and yet the distance in time it has been for those who knew her centuries ago.

The couple's love is stronger than ever and it continues to be tested time and again as they race to solve the mystery of Ashmole 782, otherwise known as the Book of Life.  They must deal with other obstacles as well, including Matthew's blood rage, family politics, and possible war between the preternatural creatures on earth, all as Diana continues to struggle with her identity and accepting herself.

I liked Diana from the very first book, and I like her even more now, after having read The Book of Life. She continues to be a strong woman in her own right, intelligent and thoughtful.  She truly grows as a person over the course of the novels, her attitudes and ideas shifting based on her experiences.  I appreciated how far Matthew has come in respecting that about Diana--how hard it had been for him in the beginning given his natural inclination as a vampire to control those he loves.

I love how the author is able to balance the supernatural and science throughout the trilogy, especially in this book as she brings her story to a conclusion.  It was nice to revisit Diana and Matthew's friends and families.  I think I most enjoyed my time back at Diana's childhood home.  I just love her house. However, I also really enjoyed the time spent in London.  The magic of one and the history of the other.  Oh, how I wanted to step inside the pages of this book many times as I read!

There is much to this novel, many story threads woven in, and so much I would like to say.  In an effort to avoid spoilers, however, I am trying to remain vague.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Book of Life, a contented smile spread across my face as I finished the last page.  Deborah Harkness did not tie every loose end up with a neat little bow, but I did not really want or expect her to.  She did just enough.  I cannot wait to reread this trilogy again one day.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

You can learn more about Deborah Harkness and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of the book for my own reading pleasure.
  

© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

18 comments:

  1. I really need to read this trilogy after reading so many rave reviews. I'm also fascinated by the witches element. I find them to be an intriguing read.

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    1. Melody - I really enjoyed the books. The author really knows how to draw readers into her world.

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  2. Received for Christmas a few years ago I have the first two books on my TBR pile. Great review, it certainly inspires me to start reading A Discovery Of Witches.

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    1. Tracy - I've enjoyed each of the books, especially the world building. I hope you will enjoy them if you read them too.

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  3. I've only read the first one! And I really liked it! So no idea why I haven't picked up the second one, which I do have on audio. Probably because it is so long. But I need to get around to it. As tired as I am of vampires, this story really pulled me in.

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    1. Sandy - I didn't like the second book quite as much--it definitely had a middle book feel to it--but I enjoyed it just the same. You're right though, the books are long. I hope you like the rest of the trilogy when you get to it. I think the vampire story is just different enough to keep it fresh, even for those who are starting to tire of vampires. The witch aspect helps though. :-)

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  4. This sounds great! The characters sound quite compelling

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    1. Irene - I have enjoyed getting to know the characters over the course of the books. I can see myself wanting to visit with them again at some point.

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  5. Glad you enjoyed these books! It sounds like a well crafted series.

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    1. Naida - I thought so. Harkness has created such an interesting mythology and I love how she melded science in as well.

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  6. Clearly I need to get started reading this series. It's so nice when a series is good for ALL THREE BOOKS. I'm looking forward to it.

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    1. Elizabeth - The second one was the weakest link, but I still enjoyed it. I hope you enjoy the books if you do read them.

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  7. The first book in this series came out exactly when I quit reading books with supernatural themes. Lately though, I have been craving some high quality supernatural stuff. Not YA romances but something more intricate with a well-built world. This sounds like just the right books to get lost in.

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    1. Athira - This might be a good one to try then, if you want high a more literary supernatural novel. I know this trilogy was compared to Twilight when the first book came out--but it's nothing like Meyers' books.

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  8. I've heard of this book but yours is the first review I've read. Sounds very intriguing.

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    1. Mystica - I've enjoyed all three books. I look forward to seeing what Harkness has in store for her readers next.

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  9. I'm really looking forward to reading this series! I'm not quite sure why I'm so drawn to it since it's so outside my usual genres but this review definitely confirms I should read it. I like the balance of science and supernatural. Great review!

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    1. Katherine - You might enjoy it, Katherine. It's a love story at its heart, even if a complex one.

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