Donna Reads: The Book of Life


bookoflifeThe Book of Life by Deborah Harkness is her third and final installment in the All Souls Trilogy. I finished the book over a week ago, and I’ve dragged my feet on writing a review. This book was supposed to finish Diana and Matthew’s story and explain everything. It doesn’t.

I really enjoyed the first book in the series – A Discovery of Witches. I read it twice. I struggled with the second book – Shadow of Night. Shadow of Night was very slow starting, and it took me a long time to get into it. It was enjoyable but not as good as A Discovery of Witches. This last book is a mess, frankly. It also took a while to get going, and once it did, it was all over the place.

Vampires, witches and daemons work together to solve the mystery of Ashmole 782, a manuscript that tells the story of all creatures, but it really doesn’t. The purpose of the book is never revealed, and what happens with the book itself was beyond bizarre to me. This series started out being about a witch and a vampire falling in love and taking on the entire Congregation (a group that oversees and controls creature affairs) and a covenant that forbids creatures from marrying each other. I expected this last book to have more of that aspect to it, and Diana and Matthew would fight to stay together. At the end of book two, they had come home (returning from a time travel trip to the 1500’s) and were ready to take on the world together. Book three ended up being full of nonsense about blood rage and a psychopathic son of Matthew’s.

I read another reviewer’s comment about the ridiculousness of blood rage, and I have to agree with her analysis. Matthew has blood rage, but he’s been able to control it with various stress management techniques! It’s hard to take it seriously when the afflicted does some deep breathing and refocuses their thoughts and then it’s gone. I also felt that the storyline in The Book of Life focused way too much on Matthew’s son, Benjamin. It ruined the story for me. I felt that Matthew’s character deserved better. He is supposed to be the family’s assassin, and he walks up and gives himself up to his son. Why? It was pointless. I wanted Matthew to fight and be the aggressor (use some of his blood rage for good and get rid of the evil son). He is supposed to be leading his own branch of the family. He should have kicked the son’s ass. Harkness ruined his character by making him give in and let others finish off the bad guy. I found the entire plot line disappointing and found myself at times wishing the story would just end. It all worked out in the end, but a lot of questions went unanswered. I was hoping for a better ending to the trilogy.

2 thoughts on “Donna Reads: The Book of Life

  1. Trilogies are so hard, Donna. I’ll never replicate the novelty of To Live Forever. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to try. I don’t have some agent flogging me to produce the exact same thing. I think that’s what happens with these. The first book is amazing, and publishers and agents don’t want to stray too far from formula once they know something works. Unfortunately, that formula doesn’t work most of the time.

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