The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

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The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The fitting, final instalment in the All Souls Trilogy ending the search of historian witch Diana and scientist vampire Matthew for Ashmole 782. It bears all the strengths of its predecessors: excitement, intrigue, romance, thrills… Why does it have to end? Why???
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 592 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Headline
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-075538477

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THIS REVIEW OF BOOK #3 CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST TWO BOOKS (Just thought I should say that, so probably best to read them first.)

Historian witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont are back home in the 21st century but now face the tragic news of Aunt Sarah's partner, Em's death. Hard-to-get-along-with Baldwin has taken over as head of the de Clairmont clan and is making life dangerously difficult for Diana, Matthew and their unborn twins. If this isn't enough, they still need to find and remove the secret manuscript, Ashmole 782 – the Book of Life. However, they have very dangerous competition.

American author and academic Deborah Harkness has kept we fans of her All Souls Trilogy waiting on the edge of our seats for 2 years for this final volume – and that's not comfy! However all impatience and gripes evaporate as we pick up the story where Shadow of the Night left it.

Deborah writes with her usual verve, throwing literary hand grenades of shock whenever we start to feel complacent about the direction in which she's taking us. There may be the sound of the very occasional clunk in conversations doubling as recaps at the beginning, but this is a book of over 590 pages so we don't hold it against her. (To be honest, I only remembered the clunks because I took notes!)

This time out we are still also very involved in the search of a cure for Matthew's blood rage. It's a nasty affliction as we witness when examples of its worst brutal excesses are demonstrated in others, driving Matthew on to learn more about this, his family's curse. (Deborah continues to build a pretty comprehensive world as not only vampire genes are examined but also the structure and protocol of vampire families.)

Speaking of Matthew he also faces psychological turmoil from other quarters: he continues to try to square his vampirism and its effects with his Catholic faith. However it doesn't staunch his wonderfully wry sense of humour and, in one case, a great dig at Twilight.

Diana isn't just sitting around painting her nails while all this is happening though. In between being assertive, finding a new strata of life in modern day London (and learning more about the London cabbies in the process), plus manuscript hunting, she has a pregnancy to bring to fruition. It's just as well that her skills are developing to a new level: this is a good time for discovering just what a weaver can do in moments of great peril. (Fingernails will be chewed!)

Nearly all the regular characters we've grown to love or hiss at throughout the series are here at the end including a couple of delightful surprise reappearances (and one or two gut-wrenching shocks). It also becomes easier to pick favourites. Although I've loved spending time with Diana and Matthew, my heart belongs to the chirpily protective Scot, Gallowglass. Now Deborah chooses to reveal something about him that many of us have guessed, but, trust me, hearing him speak about it is heart breaking.

This is definitely an exemplary end to an exemplary series. So much so in fact that I am prepared to swallow my disappointment that Richard Armitage hasn't been cast as Matthew Clairmont in the planned movie (what were they thinking?!) as long as the Bishop-Clairmonts and entourage don't end here. No one has said anything but even a cursory glance over the ending seems to suggest that Deborah has left herself with options should she fancy a spin off series or two. So perhaps if we all ask nicely?

(Thank you so much, Headline, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: It goes without saying we definitely recommend the first two of the trilogy: A Discover of Witches and Shadow of the Night, therefore why not try No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong?

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