The Book of Life (2014) by Deborah Harkness – Fiction
Book Three of the All Souls Trilogy
The Book of Life wraps up Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy – an expansive story about Diana Bishop, a witch, and her husband Matthew Clairemont, a vampire. I will attempt to provide a review without revealing too many spoilers. I have rated all of these novels 4/5 and would recommend them to anyone remotely interested in the fantasy genre. I have already reviewed the previous books, A Discovery of Witches (Book 1) and Shadow of Night (Book 2).
The third novel picks up immediately where Shadow of Night ended – Matthew and newly pregnant Diana return from their time in 1592 to present day France. Aptly named, this novel completes the holes and questions in the story regarding the mysterious manuscript that brought Matthew and Diana together in the first place – the Book of Life – the supposed book that reveals the origins of witches, daemons, and vampires.
“I thought after all these years my secret was safe,” Matthew said. “Secrets, like the dead, do not always stay buried,” Fernando said sadly.
We get a nice completion of both Diana’s and Matthew’s story arcs. Diana comes into her own powers as a weaver, a powerful witch that creates spells. She also realizes the importance of her children and how her and Matthew are able to procreate. The realization of her power and her embrace of it has been the longest aspect of her story – and something that frustrated me as a reader to have to wait until the third book to see it in action. It is worth it however – this book contains more magical action scenes than past two books combined.
Matthew’s story explores his long guilt of his decision to create offspring – creating other vampires. As we learned in the first book, Matthew suffers from blood rage, a tendency that some vampires have in their blood that can make them unstable, prone to heightened emotions and violence, and a tendency for these emotions to put those around them in harms way. Matthew attempts to atone for his actions in his vampire children and to make amends.
While Harkness writes in rich detail, like my other critics of her novels, there is a tendency to be overwhelming when it comes to the array of characters, names, and back stories. Secondly, the novel is probably 100 pages too long again.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this series. It was fun and well thought out and brought some new ideas to the vampire/witch/mystical creature genre. Matthew and Diana developed into likable characters and remained a couple that people wanted to root for even by the third book.
A Discovery of Witches has been turned into a television series. The first season is available on streaming platforms and the second season (covering Shadow of the Night) is due to release at the beginning of 2021.
“Before you I was nothing but dust and shadow. You brought me to life. And I cannot survive without you.”
Lover of the written word.