The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Published: July 15, 2014
Genre: fiction, fantasy
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.
One of three missing pages from Ashmole 782 is in Diana and Matthew’s possession. After the news of Diana’s pregnancy takes hold on the de Clermont family, the politics of the covenant and Congregation, the secrets inside the manuscript, Diana’s growing power and purpose, and Matthew’s blood rage and past guilts become more pressing than ever. From the laboratories at Yale to the many homes of Europe, from Diana’s childhood home to a deserted concentration camp in Poland, Diana and Matthew must face the world together and fight for the love, family, and future.
Once again, I’m stunned by Harkness’s brilliance. She somehow managed to write a stunning, scholarly, thrilling ending to this trilogy — all while continuing to career as a professor and academic. Wow. I bow to her. I am Fernando to her Diana.
Like A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, The Book of Life is filled with academic jargon across all disciplines and fields, making this reviewer long once more to be locked in a library and researching just for the sake of researching (and the hot beverages and tweed and autumn leaves and cozy warmth…I digress). Everything from modern science and DNA coding to history and art helps piece together the giant puzzle that is the connection between vampires, witches, daemons, and humans. This book could also be described as one giant family reunion, one crisis after another around every page turn. Characters from the previous books crop up and play their role, some of them more crucial than before. My heart swelled for Gallowglass, to name just one character in many.
What’s fantastic about these characters and their secrets are how all their stories are truly interwoven, without many of them realizing it. It makes the world feel more authentic. Even more so, it humanizes these creatures — many of whom (particularly one of Matthew’s disowned offspring who is the main villain of this book) remind us that the horrors we read in books do, in fact, happen to people every day.
Book One focused on discoveries, particularly on an all-consuming love. Book Two focused on accepting one’s identity, and the growing love between Matthew and Diana, and how the boundaries changed in that relationship. This book particularly tested them — as partners, as lovers, as mates, as parents, as creatures — and while all was not rosy, it was never without love. So beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow together. I’m sad to see the trilogy end, as I’d love to know what happens (to every character), but that’s the joy of imagination: I can think of their futures in my head and believe it to be true.
Intelligent and exciting, the All Souls trilogy is not one to be missed.