And so, the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness comes to a close with The Book of Life, the last tome in her hearty volume set of paranormal intrigue, going from urban fantasy to historical fiction and back to urban fantasy again. Witches, vampires, and daemons take their bow in her final sendoff of the great Bishop and Clairmont marriage.
In the first book, Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch and descendant from a strong line of powerful witches, came across a mysterious and magical manuscript while doing research at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. She also met a formidable vampire named Matthew Clairmont. As it turns out, she had stumbled upon the Book of Life that witches, daemons, and vampires had been seeking for centuries, and now they were after Diana because they sensed that she had opened it. Matthew, a renown molecular biologist, explains the importance of the book and simultaneously feels the need to protect Diana. Naturally, they fall in love.
To escape the Congregation of witches, vampires, and daemons who were hunting them for breaking the century-old covenant (by falling in love – inter-creature relationships are forbidden!), they escaped to medieval Europe in the second book which is no big feat since Diana just happens to be a time spinner. With the help of an old coven, they discovered the strength of Diana’s rare and unusual capabilities and they also catch a glimpse of the book before it had been torn.
In The Book Of Life, they step back into present-day Europe with more problems than before. Diana is pregnant with twins which shouldn’t happen since vampires were thought unable to conceive the natural way, they are still missing two pages of the book, Matthew’s elder brother and head of the family is threatening their plans, Matthew’s vampire anomaly called blood rage comes to the forefront, and a main character from the first book had been killed while they had time traveled.
But the good news is that Diana’s character had strengthened significantly. While in medieval Europe, she discovered that she was a rare ‘Weaver’. She’s the type of witch who could weave her own spells and create her own magic rather than following the rituals spelled out in an old grimoire. She was taught how to use her power and she comes back stronger than ever. Combine that with the power of the Goddess who is intently watching over Diana, and we have ourselves a little fireball of magical ammo.
Aside from the Congregation and certain members hell bent on possessing the Book of Life, we have a new foe – and it’s Matthew’s own son. Benjamin was created a vampire by Matthew out of spite, immediately disavowed as a family member, and then left to his own devices. He was thought to be long gone. But Benjamin had been watching and he was determined to hurt Matthew. Putting together the pregnancy between Matthew and Diana, and their relationship to the Book of Life, Benjamin is fixated on making as many people he can suffer so that he can achieve the same type of vampire-witch offspring in an attempt to rule the next world.
And now it is decidedly my time to vent. I hoped and prayed that this third book would not be about the search for the missing pages of the book and yet it was. Of course there were other small plots and new archenemies to be discovered, but the majority of the book revolved around finding these pages. And that’s just not very exciting.
Of course, there were a million other things that happened, and all of these little tributaries and plot devices were built up around character development. Hundreds of pages worth of character development that could have been condensed into a fraction of the reading time. Between Diana’s pregnancy pains, Gallowglass’ affections, Matthew’s shame for his Blood Rage, new and old character introductions, and the intense love between Matthew and Diana – it was all too long to get to the last fifty pages of climax.
But when it did get good, it got great.
“Hello, salaud. I’m your grandmother.” Ysabeau thrust a dagger into the man’s heart.
The final showdown brought the family together, as well as the Congregation and a horde of vampires, witches, and dameons, and they descended upon a common enemy. It is Diana, empowered by her own superior magic, the Goddess, and the Book of Life, who explodes in a fury of magical awesomeness. She’s definitely not the same Diana we saw in the first book, that’s for sure.
Overall, this series is wonderful in character descriptions, historical reference, scientific and academic feats of knowledge, and setting. And the writing is off-the-charts superb. My problem was with its length and with so much information barely contributing to the main story line. The all-around worship of Diana was also a major killjoy, so to speak. The character development and main character deification were simply overdone. The books should have and could have been much shorter.
The Book of Life
by Deborah Harkness