Review: All Souls Trilogy: The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness (with spoilers)

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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. 

Oh my gosh, looking through LiveJournal I saw that I never did continue my book discussion: discovery of witches and shadow of night 😦 That is what I get for procrastinating- for almost two years!!! I didn’t realize how much time passed and how it flew by. This actually became an issue when reading The Book of Life. I overestimated my memory. I found I forgot a lot of details and had to go back to old notes and my LJ entries to refresh my memory. I really should have followed my sister’s footsteps and reread the first two books before the July 15th release of this last book in the trilogy. From now on if it has been close to, or more than, a year since I read the previous books in a series, I am doing a reread before the new release.

What I am planning to do before the end of the year is reread all three, back to back, and finish my analysis/discussion post and I’ll be able to catch all the clues I missed 2 years ago. I will also post my fan casting. Here’s a sneak peak at my dream cast: Richard Armitage as Matthew. Instead of a movie I would turn it into a three season TV series, 22 to 25 episodes, with each season focusing on a book.

WB Studios did have the rights, but they expired some time this year. Deborah Harkenss mentioned that at Book Con. She has the rights again. She also said early script drafts were turning Diana and Matthew into teenagers. BLAH! NO! So she said until she finds a company who will do the books right and keep the character WHO THEY ARE, then she will not sign the rights away. It is better to wait for it to be done right than rush into making it a movie/TV production, and I agree.

On to my review – with spoilers hidden.

First off I want to say I enjoyed the conclusion. It wasn’t perfect, and I am left wanting a bit more completion to the answers, but over all I am content.

Like the previous two books, The Book of Life still has everything I love rolled into a whole story. Magic, science, romance, some historic fiction, some action, travel, family dynamics and love. It is like a soap opera, and I mean that in a positive way. It is why these books shouldn’t be movies, but a TV series. There is so much going on and I don’t want a condensed version.

Onto the the spoilers. I’ll start with my issues first and end on the high note of what I loved and my favorite quotes.

-For spending so much time and effort looking for Ashmole 782, a.k.a. The Book of Life, we weren’t given all the answers. Who first made the book? Why use the remains of creatures? Where they killed to make the book or did they die of natural causes? Who were the first daemons, witches and vampires? Who was/were the common ancestor(s)? Why didn’t Diana share the names with Timothy like she promised? Or for that matter share what she learned about their origins to the whole creature world?

-Once Diana had The Book, why did it chose her? Was it because her father bewitched it or because her fate was intertwined with it? What happens to the information she absorbed when she dies? Why weren’t we told what she learned after she absorbed the information whenever a question about it was brought up? I would have liked to know what was written across her skin.

-I really would have liked to know more about these “Bright Borns” that were mentioned. I feel like this was a prelude to a future spin-off series. 

-Philippe’s letter. Was he figurative, delusional, or has it not yet happened for Diana. Will she at some point time-walk back to his death? I have to reread the first two books because the details of his death are so fuzzy to me. 

-For the last two books the main antagonist was the Congregation. They didn’t really go after Diana and Matthew for their crimes against covenant. I thought Benjamin would be a subplot, but he became the main villain. I also expected more of an appearance from Knox. However, Diana did show some bad-ass power at the end.

-Gerbert didn’t getting his due. but sometimes that happens. Look at Dolores Umbridge. His time is coming and that is all I need to know. 

Now, maybe some of these were written that way to leave it open for a spin off series, or maybe there was just so much going on that it was overlooked. While I wanted more clear answers than the ones we got, I still enjoyed their journey throughout the story.

One part I particularly loved was when Diana and her aunt, Sarah, are teaching each other about their specialties in magic. I just loved their interaction while learning more about being a weaver and what powers they hold. I also got such a kick out of the house playing Fleetwood Mac. I love Fleetwood Mac and I can’t believe Sarah hates “Rumors”. That is easily one of the top 10 BEST albums of ALL TIME.

I loved the scenes in the science lab. I find it plausible that not everything was answered with the genetics because it takes years to go through all the DNA coding.
Did anyone else ship Chris and Miriam? 

I liked when Diana was hunting down the missing pages and going through the history records. I must read it again because I already cannot recall how Hubbard and Timothy had them in their possession.

The ghosts <3. I wish we saw more of their presence. 

Matthew’s chess playing habits came full circle! I loved that they brought back the Queen’s Gambit. Diana really grew from the first book and became a powerful witch, who came to the rescue of her husband. 😀

I loved the birth of the twins and anytime we saw Diana and Matthew with their children.

There is so much more I am purposely leaving out or forgetting, but it will be covered in my analysis post. 

A portion of my favorite quotes:
Ysabeau – “And if we all did what we should, we would wake to find ourselves in paradise.”

Miriam – “What do you think I have been doing all this while? Crocheting blankets in case you came home with babies and weeping about your absence?”

Matthew – “Ah, yes, the elusive right moment. It never comes, Diana. Sometimes we just have to throw caution to the wind and trust the people we love.”

Chris – “Where were you?”
Diana – “In 1590.”
Chris – “Did you get any research done? I suppose that would cause all kinds of citation problems. What would you put in your footnotes? ‘Personal conversation with William Shakespeare’?”
Diana – “I never met Shakespeare. Matthew’s friends didn’t approve of him. I did meet the queen.”
Chris – “Even better. Equally impossible to footnote, however.”

Chris – “Do not embarrass me in front of Oxford University, or you will all life weights with me for the entire month of September.”

Matthew – “No fangs either. And one last thing: I do not, nor have I ever, sparkled.”
(I had to put the book down and laugh my ass off.) 

Miriam’s t-shirt reads: STAND BACK-I’M GOING TO TRY SCIENCE.

Diana – “Who moved the damn bad?”
Sarah – “Matthew did.”
Matthew – “I did no such thing.”
Sarah – “In labor we blame absolutely everything on the husband. It keeps the mother from developing homicidal fantasies and reminds the men they aren’t the center of attention.”

Matthew – “To every question I have ever had, or will have, you are the answer.”

There was something miraculous in the juxtaposition of a father’s strength with his daughter’s vulnerability.

Philip, who had already exhibited an uncanny sensitivity to his father’s mercurial moods, arranged his features in a perfect imitation of Matthew’s frown and waved one arm in the air as if calling for a sword so they could vanquish their enemies together.

Miriam’s t-shirt reads: SCIENCE: RUINING EVERYTHING SINCE 1543

4 out of 5 firedrake ouroboros

 

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