Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness

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The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling 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 and Shadow 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 always joke with one of my friends that reading these books is a commitment. Case in point, I received Shadow of Night, book two in the series, for Christmas 2012. I desperately wanted it but waited until the timing was right to finally read it. That ended up being around Christmas 2013. There’s just so much detail and history infused into each page that you really need a comfy, quiet spot so that you can happily lose yourself in it. So I was both thrilled and worried about reading 600+ pages in a timely manner to post a review. But the thing is, once you’re in this carefully mapped out world, you’re in it completely.

Diana and Matthew return to the present after their timewalk to the past to discover more about her abilities and the precious Ashmole 782 document that may hold all the answers. However, they’re returning to unhappy circumstances and unwanted changes. Everyone has to adapt and be on the offensive in order to protect Diana’s newfound secret and the family that remains.

I thought the start was a bit slow but I think that could just have been me slowly getting back into the book’s rhythm. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this story which is so heavily immersed in history and science, managed to incorporate some current pop culture references - that being Buffy for example - that allowed for hilarious quips and moments between a few characters. It threw me off guard but was very welcome.

The Book of Life gathers momentum and urgency as some new characters are introduced leaving you wondering on which side of things they will stand as they face down tradition and hierarchy. The tension is heightened when Matthew and the family have to finally confront their most despicable and horrifying enemy – an enemy that they’ve known about for many centuries and who has been keeping tabs on them from afar. As a vampire, Matthew’s protective instincts towards his mate and wife Diana are always on high. Now with this new threat, they’re in overdrive. 

Much of the story is about Matthew learning to find control especially when it comes to Diana. She is as self-sufficient and headstrong as ever and understands her husband well. She herself is occupied with her own research which could lead to finding some help for Matthew. But Ashmole 782 is something that all the creatures want to get their hands on. Time’s a ticking and everything is carefully moving into place for the final moment of truth.

The Book of Life is just as thought-provoking and suspenseful as the previous two books in this series. Past and present collide plenty in this too, often complicating things before becoming an advantage. I did feel that this book had more movement than Shadow of Night which I liked.  The best part is that this is about family, a strange mix as it may be, and redefining what exactly that is.

~ Bel

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