Book Review: The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life coverTitle: The Book of Life
Author: Deborah Harkness
ISBN: 9780670025596
Pages: 576
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Viking
Genre:  Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

While this review contains no spoilers for The Book of Life, it may contain spoilers for the two previous books in the All Souls Trilogy.


Diana and Matthew are comfortably back in the present, staying at the Clairmont home at Sept-Tours—at least, as comfortable Diana can be, considering she’s pregnant with twins. After reuniting with their loved ones and learning of the losses incurred while they were in the past, Diana and Matthew are more determined than ever to make Ashmole 782 whole again. But they get more than they bargained for with a ruthless enemy intent on their destruction, which makes decoding the Book of Life’s mysteries more crucial than ever.

Snapshot Review:

The Book of Life brings The All Souls Trilogy to an exciting and satisfying close; it’s rich and complex, immersing the reader in this world that they will be very sorry to leave once the last pages are turned.

Full Review:

The Book of Life is a novel I’ve been eagerly anticipating for the past two years, the conclusion to the All Souls Trilogy that began with the exciting and explosive A Discovery of Witches and continued with Shadow of Night. Finishing up a much-loved trilogy is a difficult prospect, though; when you’re an author, it’s hard to satisfy all your readers, and as a reader, it’s hard to not want more out of the book, or something different for one of the characters. Happily, The Book of Life is one of the few conclusions that is a satisfying read in and of itself and also brings the overall All Souls story to a good end.

But first, a warning: this book is complicated. All the novels in this series are intricate, to be sure, but with The Book of Life, there are so many plot lines and character threads to resolve and combine that it’s almost overwhelming. That’s not to say it’s a jumbled mess (though in less talented hands, it would be), but merely that you should prepare yourself. In fact, if you have the time and inclination, it would be best to go back and read the first two books in the trilogy before diving into this one. But if, like me, you’re too impatient to allow that, then just know that you might spend a little while sorting through characters and situations in this book, trying to remember exactly what is happening. It’s not frustrating or anything, but it does take awhile to acclimate yourself to this world once again.

Diana and Matthew are closer than ever in The Book of Life, but their relationship isn’t without its ups and downs. Harkness continues to take care developing these two, but it’s really the secondary characters that shine in this novel. It’s so nice to see them come out of the woodwork, to say hello to old friends and to welcome new ones. The character development in this book is really second to none; it’s amazing how many characters Harkness creates, and how she breathes life into each and every one of them.

The story of The Book of Life is satisfying, bringing the overall series to a conclusion, but it also stands on its own two feet. This book is not just about tying up loose ends; Diana has her own adventures, and it’s clear that her work is just beginning. It’s hard to go into specifics, because that would deny all of you the pleasure of experiencing the surprises of this book for yourselves, but I was happy with how the story went. I was, by turns, excited, heartbroken, amused, angered, and shocked, with new emotions surfacing on each page.

I’m sad to leave Diana and Matthew behind with this book (though Harkness leaves things open—might we revisit this world again?), but I’m satisfied with the way it ended. Now my main task is to go back and read all three books, to get the complete experience of the All Souls trilogy and fully appreciate what the author has accomplished with this wonderful series.

Other books by Deborah Harkness:

A Discovery of Witches
Shadow of Night

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    I just finished this series. It was fantastic. I would love to know more about Gallowglass. I struggled a little to find the change in Baldwin believable, but overall, such an enjoyable read. Did you understand why the book of life jumped into Diana? That confused the heck out of me…

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