“The Book of Life” – Deborah Harkness


(Release Date July 15, 2017)

Where to start, where to start, where to start….well, let’s start at the beginning.  This is the third and final installment of the ‘All Souls Trilogy’ by Deborah Harkness.  If you have not read ‘Discovery of Witches’ that is where this beautiful group of books begins.  If you have read it, you may have loved it, or possibly came away a little lukewarm due to the hype surrounding it.  I enjoyed ‘s Discovery of Witches’ and badgered quite a few like-minded people until they read it.  I was impatient for the second book and picked it up the minute I could.  I felt a bit let down, I blame my expectations partially , then waited a couple of months and read it again. I figured out what bothered me.  You can read my review here, (Shadow of Night) if you are curious, and I think it has more to do with it being a second book in a trilogy than being a lesser book.  The first book sets up the story, the second takes you to the depths of the problem/conflict, and the third is  resolution.  Harkness delivers with ‘The Book of Life.  I am content.  When I reached the end I wanted go back to the beginning and read it again.

Diana and Matthew return to the present day after their sojourn to 15th century Europe in search of ‘The Book of Life.’  Their return , while desired, is bittersweet.  The present day did not stop and they are greeted with news of death, and challenges the ‘Knights of Lazarus’ faced from The Congregation in their absence.  Harkness ties in the genetic studies of Matthew, Miriam, and Marcus with Diana’s study of alchemy and ‘The Book of Life.’ The why of the witches power lessening,  vampire’s lessening ability to make children, and daemon increased descent into madness is all answered.   Harkness ties up the loose ends into a well thought out pay off.

The trilogy has received criticism of gender roles and dynamics of gender in relationships.  It has been stated that Diana defers and accepts the aggressive protective tendencies of a traditional male all to quickly.  This dynamic does exist in the books, and is an issue dealt with by not only Diana and Matthew, but also other creatures in the book. Vampires exhibit a strong protective instinct that is animalistic.   They have  lived for centuries and bring with them the traditional values of when they were made.  Daemons and witches have a human life span and embrace modern notions.   The three books challenge sexism, segregation and the basis of a traditional belief structure.   A nice aspect of the books is it deals not only with the romance of happily ever after, but complexity of marriage.  Day to day issues, compromise and growth in a relationship all exist in the book.  It makes it clear that relationships romantic and otherwise are not static and involve compromise and challenge.  I believe people who were irritated or aggravated by Diana’s perceived lack of power and willingness to acquiesce will enjoy this book.  They will see her and others come into their own.  It delves into balance and costs of power.

If you enjoyed ‘Discovery of Witches’ I do not hesitate to guarantee you that you will adore this book.  To those on the fence or those that questioned ‘A Discovery of Witches,’ if you are willing read the second and get the third book I think you will find was worth your time.

I received ‘The Book of Life’ by Deborah Harkness from  Penguin Group – Viking in return for an honest review.


About Steph

As C. S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I am an indiscriminate reader. I can find a way to enjoy almost all books. I find they are like people – you can find something endearing in almost every one of them. I love to write reviews. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful. View all posts by Steph

2 responses to ““The Book of Life” – Deborah Harkness

  • mblaylock4

    Hmmmm…I’m still not sure I am tempted enough by TBOL to tackle Shadow of Night, which I’ve tried reading a few times now with no success. But from what I can tell, I think you enjoyed TBOL more than TSON, so perhaps I will give it a shot. Either way, thanks for the review – it’s the first I’ve read for this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • stephswint

      I had a very hard time with Shadow of Night. I think the first half was very hard to swallow. It was riddled with aggravating gender issues and minutia about Matthews friend. It did get better when they get to France, about half way through. The Book of Life was good from page one but there is important info in Shadow of Night. Off you like Discovery of Witches I’d recommend giving it another chance


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