The Book of Life (All Souls’ Trilogy #3)
By: Deborah Harkness
Format/Source: Mass bound paperback; my copy
A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it. After travelling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchant-ing 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 in France they reunite with their families – with one heart-breaking exception. But the real threat to their future is yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on a terrifying urgency. Using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the palaces of Venice and beyond, Diana and Matthew will finally learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.
I spent the last week or so re-reading the first two books in the All Souls trilogy, The Discovery of Witches (review) and Shadow of Night (review) in preparation for this novel; you can read my commentaries on these re-reads in this post. And here we are, the final volume in this story. I’ve been waiting a long time to get my hands on the paperback to complete the trilogy (and it looks so pretty altogether) 🙂
Super massive spoilers abound if you haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy (because I’m not putting anything under a spoiler cut)! If you want to read my overall thoughts of the novel, skip to the last paragraph of this review 😉
Oh gosh, where to begin? Suffice to say, coming back to the present after everything that happened in the second book, wasn’t going to be a walk in the park despite Diana discovering her abilities and her relationship with Matthew more solid than ever. But wow, I didn’t think the de Clairmont family could get into any more problems and threaten to unravel the way it did. We are introduced to more members of the family in this volume–if that was even possible–and having most of them under the same root, not to mention different creatures, proved to be rather interesting. Baldwin can be such a killjoy and a roadblock though, oh my gosh. Thank goodness he eases off in the end; I know he’s looking out for the family, but his issues with Matthew just never end.
Anyway, it was nice to meet up with old characters from the first novel: I was really happy for Ysabeau to grace the pages again, I love how Sept-Tours became quite the home for the other characters since Diana and Matthew left. I was pretty 🙁 about what happened to Em. Marcus has grown up considerably since Matthew left and has been pretty solid all around; I thought his chapter with Phoebe in Shadow of Night was cute but it did take some time for me to warm up to her character in this novel. Fernando finally gracing his presence in the story was interesting, as well as Chris playing a larger role in this novel though omg he was pretty irritating at some point when he was butting heads with Matthew; lmao at his strange flirtation with Miriam though. And yay for Gallowglass too but I was pretty awww about his storyline in this novel; isn’t there someone out there for him? 🙁
But oh man, all the feels when Jack re-emerged in the story in the present day. It really hurt the first time the left in Elizabethan England so for him to re-emerge and to reveal the things that he had endured, especially more recently…Yeah, cue in the gross sobbing. Everything he endured really sucked, but his reunion with Matthew and Diana was just *hearts* On a related note, I didn’t think Benjamin was going to play such a prominent role in this novel and end up a major antagonist to be dealt with; dude is really messed up, I can’t even begin to express it in this review.
Story-wise, did it feel like it meandered a bit longer that it should’ve? Perhaps, but there was a lot going on that Matthew and Diana had to deal with, and it did set up with what was going on with the witches and with the other creatures and their lives elsewhere as well as the Congregation (though I was expecting the Venice location to crop up earlier in the novel). I really felt sorry for Matthew: does his problems just never end? His past keeps cropping up, along with everything that’s happening in the present and with Diana; thank goodness their relationship is stable and solid enough that they can focus on what’s going on around them. I did find it weird during the Yale portion of the novel that they were letting more people in on their secret (their status as creatures, letting people in to work on a page of the Ashmole 782), though I suppose with time running out and Diana and co. in need to resources and manpower, it made sense to let these people in. It just seemed a little strange at first because you never know who’s a spy for particular members of the Congregation (namely Domenico, Gerbert, John Knox).
Also, I’m impressed Diana dealt with everything while pregnant. Like, it was already a little harrowing towards the end of Shadow of Night with her second pregnancy but here she’s so close to giving birth and she’s in the thick of events and things are not becoming less stressful, you know? But OMG the twins sound sooooooo cute <333 I'd gladly read several chapters just focusing on their home life, lol. At the risk of breaking down book into every single major event, I'm going to stop here. Suffice say I really enjoyed The Book of Life, I can’t imagine the course of events ending up any other way. Not everything was wrapped up in a neat little bow, of course, as there are still some people who are still at large and need to be dealt with; I can foresee another novel can be written down the road focusing on their later life and such. But this book does come full circle with all the elements that were dropped in the first novel and the primary sources of conflict resolved. It was a wonderful journey and the reveal of what was in the Ashmole 782 made sense narrative-wise and thematically. A fantastic trilogy all around, I reckon I’ll be re-reading it a few times over in the future 😉