Book Review Books

Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

The third novel in the All Souls trilogy follows Matthew and Diana as they try to find the book of life and end the Congregation’s hold on the way creatures live their lives. Having brought one of the three missing pages from the book back with them from 1590, they only have two pages and the book left to find. In the modern day, Diana and her aunt grieve the sudden loss of Emily, her aunt’s partner. Life doesn’t wait for grief to subside. As they travel from America to Europe, their band of vampires, witches, and daemons try to bring peace in a world where their kind are slowly going extinct.

While I love the All Souls trilogy, the third installment of the series is in serious need of some editing down. As soon as you think that the story has finally settled on finding the book of life, another side story pops up, including a mid-novel rape and kidnapping subplot that really does nothing to forward the story along.

In the first third of the book, Matthew and Diana are using Diana’s friend Chris to gain access to his lab to do more DNA testing on creatures blood. A pointless side venture since Matthew has his own lab. Then, suddenly, they are back in Europe. The DNA testing forgotten for another subplot involving Baldwin, the head of the De Clermont family, who is hellbent on leading in a way Matthew and Diana don’t like.

All the while, Diana is pregnant and searching for the book of life and the missing pages seems forgotten until the last to remaining pages drop into Diana’s lap. She then attempts to get to the book of life, and suddenly Benjamin, the big baddie vampire villain, is threatening her. Just as quickly, he disappears and Diana and Matthew decide to separate for no other reason than they don’t like Baldwin.

Like I said, a lot of subplots that really don’t move the story along and keep the novel from getting where it needs to go. Instead of setting Benjamin up as the main villain in the first two books, he is barely mentioned, which leaves Harkness having to make him front and center in a story where the Congregation should have been the real villain.

Harkness is a great storyteller. She weaves interesting characters into world building of a fantasy story that is intriguing enough to keep your attention, even when you have to wade through fifty pages of nonessential subplots to get to the main plot lines again, only to be back to another subplot eventually.

This was my least favorite novel in her series, but it is certainly worth reading if you want to finish out the series. Just do it knowing you’ll have a lot of characters in convoluted situations that are cumbersome to the main plot, but it is only a little off putting. The story is still interesting enough to be enjoyable, even if Harkness tried to do too much with material.

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