The Book of Life (Deborah Harkness)

The Book of Life (Deborah Harkness)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #3
Published by Headline Book Publishing on 09-04-2015
Genres: Fantasy, Vampires, Witches
Pages: 656
Format: Paperback

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 and translations, 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.

SPOILER ALERT: As book 3 in a trilogy, this review may contain spoilers for the previous books, so stop here if you don’t want to see them!

Plot: ★★★

I loved both A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, so I was really excited for The Book of Life (though also nervous because sometimes series endings are disappointing).  Needless to say, The Book of Life was wonderful, and I’m sad the series is over!

The storyBack in the present, Diana and Matthew are reunited with their families to finally hear about what’s going on in the present day, and also to talk about what they found in the past.  The hunt for Ashmole 782 continues with growing urgency as threats to Diana and Matthew’s family seem to increase day by day.

My feelings about the plot are a little bit conflicted – on the one hand, I was absolutely hooked by it.  On the other hand, one thing I’ve loved about this trilogy is that it’s so unique.  It doesn’t feel like every other vampire or witch story, but unfortunately there was at least one moment in this when my heart sank and things felt a little reminiscent of Twilight.  Thankfully, the moment was fleeting but I did feel that The Book of Life was more cliche in places than the previous two books in the series.

Having said that, I really enjoyed the story, and although I adored the time-travelling, historical fantasy feel of Shadow of Night, I enjoyed the return to the urban fantasy that made me fall in love with the story in the first place.

The characters

Although I certainly like Diana and Matthew, the supporting characters have been one of my favourite things about the trilogy from the very beginning, and that remains the case in The Book of Life.  I adore Gallowglass, who’s so reliable and is a like having a loyal bear.  I can’t help but feel for him in this book, and he was probably my favourite character.  I also love Ysabeau, with her fiery nature but her appearance of always being cool and collected – she reminds me of Olenna Tyrell; they both have that perfectly civilized mask hiding an iron stubborn streak, and above all, a determination to look out for their families.

The large cast means we sometimes don’t see as much of particular characters as I’d have liked – I’d have loved to see more of Chris and Miriam for example – but the characters are great.  I loved that we got to see so much of Marcus, and also his relationship with Phoebe.  Sarah felt a little looked over at times: I sometimes felt she was being treated too much as the grandmother, although I perhaps enjoyed the moments when she steps to the forefront more because of it.

final thoughts

A brilliant end to the trilogy, I’m sad to see the story end, and I’d love to see Harkness return to some of the secondary characters letter on!  The three books feel very different, and yet totally complementary: A Discovery of Witches was a slow building fantasy romance, while Shadow of Night had a more complex historical feel.  The Book of Life manages to tie the two together perfectly; it had it’s own slightly faster, and also slightly darker plot, but it also gave us resolution to the questions regarding Ashmole 782, Diana’s magic, and the romance that blossomed in the first book.

Buy it? This one would be worth buying for me, and I love how the UK paperbacks look together too!
In a nutshell: A great ending to a wonderful series, I’m disappointed that it had to end, but very happy with the way that it did.

Other Reviews of The Book of Life: That’s What She Read | Curiosity Killed the Bookworm | A Fantastical Librarian

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Shadow of Night (Deborah Harkness)

Shadow of Night (Deborah Harkness)Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #2
Published by Headline Book Publishing on 01-02-2013
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Paranormal
Pages: 634
Format: Paperback
Source: BookBridgr


Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library,she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers...

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Readability: ★★★★


The storyDiana and Matthew are being hunted by witches, daemons and vampires all trying to get their hands on Ashmole 782.   Diana and Matthew travel back in time to avoid them, to try and find Ashmole 782 before it was cursed, and to find a witch capable of teaching Diana to use her powers.

If that sounds like a lot of story – well, it is!  There are a lot of plot threads to the story, but they keep you guessing the whole way through, and the joy of so many elements is that you’re bound to love at least one!

My only issue with the plot of Shadow of Night was the time-travel element – not that I didn’t enjoy it, just that it made my brain hurt.  I’ll admit I’m not the best with time travel at the best of times, but I didn’t feel like the logistics of the time travel in Shadow of Night were explained as well as they could have been. I have no idea how things were supposed to work – the original Matthew from the time period apparently disappeared? And everyone who’d met the ‘new’ Matthew (and Diana!) were just expected to pretend nothing happened when the original Matthew came back? This bit didn’t really make much sense to me, and in some ways I couldn’t understand why this time period was chosen. Surely it would have made more sense to go to a time and place the original Matthew hadn’t been? To just become two random newcomers?

The characters

Diana is still a great character, but I found her a little more relatable in Shadow of Night.  Despite her studies and her masses of historical knowledge, even Diana has a hard time fitting into the past, and I found the loss of a little of her sure-footedness made her seem more human.

Shadow of Night is absolutely stuffed full of supporting characters.  From the supporting characters we already know and love from A Discovery of Witches, to the famous historical faces introduced in Shadow of Night, yet again I feel like Harkness makes the story with her fantastic secondary characters.  The sheer number of characters can be a little overwhelming at times, and I’m not a history buff at all, but I really liked the personalities Harkness has introduced. Matthew’s father was particularly brilliant, and the scenes between he, Diana and Matthew are poignant and bitter-sweet.

final thoughts

Shadow of Night has a very different feel to it to A Discovery of Witches.  The time travel element makes Shadow of Night feel more like a historical fantasy novel, which I was really unsure about at first, but I really enjoyed it.  I loved finding out more about Diana’s powers, and the magic in general.

All in all, I felt the time travel element could have used some work, so I ended up just trying not to think about it.  Despite that, the plot was great, and the supporting characters were absolutely what made the story for me.

Buy it? This is one worth buying for me.
In a nutshell: A very different, but fantastically enjoyable, follow up to A Discovery of Witches

Other Reviews of Shadow of Night: Girls in the stacks | An Unexpected Book Blog | Caffeinated Book Reviewer

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A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness)

A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Published by Headline Book Publishing on 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Paranormal
Pages: 594
Format: Paperback
Source: BookBridgr

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★

The storyDiana Bishop is a historian and an academic.  She also happens to be a witch, though she tries to ignore that part of her as much as possible.  When the mysterious Matthew Clairmont, fellow academic, geneticist and vampire shows up at Oxford, things in Diana’s life take a turn for the complicated.

When she calls up an old alchemical manuscript from the stacks in the library, Diana sets in motion events far beyond her control. The manuscript, Ashmole 782,  is clearly magical.  It makes her skin prickle, and Diana can tell there’s text beneath text, meanings out of reach.  With her reluctance to claim her inheritance, Diana sends the manuscript back, only to find out that no one else has ever been able to find it – and now witches, daemons and vampires alike are desperate to get it back.  Some believe the manuscript contains spells, some believe it contains the true origin of witches, daemons, vampires or all of them.  The one thing that is certain – everyone wants it, no matter what the cost, and Diana seems the only way to get to it.

The characters
I really liked Diana, the feisty, independent academic who has been determined to earn her way to the top without using her advantages.  She’s dedicated to her research.  She tries to keep her magic at bay by exercising out her extra adrenaline.

My only complaint is that I occasionally found Diana a little too perfect, and a little too knowledgeable.   For example, Diana reels off famous artists, obscure poets, historical artifacts and so on quite comfortably, which I found a little annoying, and it can occasionally feel like one of those chick lit novels that spends the whole time name-dropping brands.  I understand that Diana is a historian, but the whole point of a PhD is to specialise so Diana’s very broad historical knowledge could have been cut down quite considerably without seeming strange.

Matthew is, in some ways, a cliche vampire love interest.  He’s moody, dark and brooding.  He struggles to control his urges, and he’s full of secrets.   He also practices yoga, studies genetics, has a fine appreciation of wine and was friends with notable historical characters.  His quirks mean that although he shares elements with many other popular vampires, Matthew is likable and mysterious where many others are frustrating and martyr like.  It took me a while to make my mind up about Matthew (and indeed, I don’t think I truly decided how I felt until Shadow of Night), but I was certainly intrigued by him, and dying to see where things would go.

It’s worth mentioning that I also absolutely loved the secondary characters, who always felt like complete characters, and made the story feel much more three-dimensional.

final thoughtsA Discovery of Witches took a little while to hook me, but the characters, the romance and the mystery drew me in.  For me, the romance was a little heavier than I would have liked.  I absolutely love the idea of the origins of the supernatural creatures, and the biggest draws for me were that and the mystery of the manuscript. I found the prose too descriptive, but once the story picked up I didn’t notice too much, and the story had me too engrossed to stop in any case!

Buy it? This is one worth buying for me.
In a nutshell: An intriguing story, a novel concept, and a promising start to the trilogy.

Other Reviews of A Discovery of Witches: Kat Loves Books | Reading Lark | Elitist Book Reviews

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