What is it?
The Book of Life is the last book in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, and if you enjoyed the first two, you’ll insist on reading this amazing story. Where the first novel, A Discovery of Witches, was mainly introduction to the characters and the world, and the second novel, Shadow of Night, centered on tons and tons of painstakingly glorious historical detail, The Book of Life is non-stop action from beginning to end.
Who wrote it?
What did I like?
As with Shadow of Night, I listened to The Book of Life on audio (narrated by Jennifer Ikeda), and it took every ounce of discipline I had not to just sit and veg out so I could find out what happened in the story! It’s one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve ever read, tying up most of the hanging plot lines. It even expands on plot lines you thought were tied up!
While book one is set mainly in Oxford, England, and book two is set mainly in Elizabethan Europe, book three happens in modern day America. New England mostly.
It incorporates new and existing characters seamlessly, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
What I like most about The Book of Life is how Harkness grows and strengthens the relationship between protagonists Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairemont. Since their marriage, they’ve only gotten closer, but it didn’t happen overnight.
It’s a beautiful picture of what marriage should look like, each person giving 100% to each other, being honest, being real, and relying on each other for help. And the story demonstrates what happens when spouses don’t.
It’s an incredible story, a beautiful final chapter, and one of the best books I read all year.
What didn’t I like?
There were moments in the other two books that sort of dragged for me, but there wasn’t a single slow moment in The Book of Life. The story went from one revelation to the next, all in extraordinarily vivid detail that makes you feel like you’re actually there.
As with Shadow of Night, there are some adult situations in The Book of Life, and there’s a bit more violence as well. But nothing is overly graphic and it’s certainly not gratuitous.
I guess the only thing I didn’t like is that it was the last book in the series!
Should you read it?As with the other books in the trilogy, The Book of Life discusses occult topics, idolatry, witchcraft, and a general acceptance of same-sex marriage. If you are sensitive or don’t want to read books that include material like this, you should avoid the All Souls Trilogy.
But if you’re able to separate what you believe from what you read (eating the watermelon and spitting out the seeds, you could say), the architecture of The Book of Life as the final installment in a successful trilogy is absolutely worth the read.
The characters are all well-rounded, vivid, believable, and relateable. The storyline is complete, vibrant, and engaging. The setting? Goodness. Just believe me when I say it’s visceral.
Actually, don’t believe me. Read it for yourself.
And if you don’t have time to read it, seriously, listen to Jennifer Ikeda read it.