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The All Souls Trilogy Boxed Set Paperback – May 26, 2015
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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About the Author
Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times–bestselling author of the All Souls trilogy. A history professor at the University of Southern California, she lives in Los Angeles.
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So, let's get into it. The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness...Wow! Before reading this series I would have told you that the closest I would ever get to enjoying, let alone reading a series about witches, vampires and daemons would be Harry Potter and the Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman. I am so glad to report that I was wrong. This series is amazing. I thought about reviewing the individual books, but honestly this series is best taken as a whole. Not that the individual books aren't fabulous! Because they are.
Ok, so, here we go. Everything is so deliciously complex about these books. Diana Bishop is a historian and tenured professor at Yale. She's also a witch. At this point I should mention that witches, daemons and vampires are kind of the norm in this authors world. Well, the world of her books. Humans, witches, daemons, and vampires are the world's higher life forms, if you will. The non-humans refer to themselves collectively as "creatures". Anyway, Diana is the last in the line of very powerful witches. But she doesn't use her powers. In fact, she wishes she wasn't a witch at all. She hasn't been interested in her powers or much of her family since a tragedy befell her parents when she was just seven years old. But just because she doesn't want it, doesn't mean it isn't there. While doing some research in the Bodleian library at Oxford, Diana calls up a book, Ashmole 782, and her powers make themselves known. The books is protected by magic and her magic responds to it. Annoyance and fear override her curiosity and she sends it back to storage. The very next day, Diana's life gets immeasurably more complicated. All of a sudden she is surrounded by daemons, witches, and a particularly bold vampire when she returns to the library to continue her research. In short order she is threatened, questioned, and warned. All because of that book.
Her life quickly stops being her own when she falls under the protection of a 1500 year old vampire, Matthew Clairmont, who suspects that the book she called up by accident was, in fact, a manuscript that may or may not hold the secrets to the beginnings of all creatures, including humans. People are willing to kill her to get their hands on the manuscript or to keep it buried. The race to find the book again and it's origins will take Diana and Matthew across Europe and back in time. All the while, Diana is coming into the powers she was born with and learning things about her family, particularly her parents, that will change everything.
Are you intrigued? I am and I just wrote and I read the books! I'm definitely reading these again. Anyway, let's talk about why this series is so yummy. It's all in the details! Deborah Harkness is, first and foremost, a historian and it shows! But this is not like reading a history book. Every little tiny detail is wrapped up in the story and flows amazingly well for as much as she's throwing at you. Diana is no slouch as a teacher or a student and her excitement at all the things she learns throughout her journey is magnificent. It's all so...just wow! Seriously, this book is chock full of history, religion, mythology and magic. Literal magic and figurative magic. It's just awesome. Oh, and forget anything you think you know about witches, vampires and daemons. This book comes at each of these subjects in such a refreshing way that you can't help but rewrite your own definitions of these "creatures".
I loved everything about these books. Even the fact that each book is nearly 600 pages long! It's necessary for the story. Rarely do I say that. I've read some reviews of these books that stated that the whole trilogy could have been wrapped up in one, shorter book. I honestly don't see how that's possible. The fun with this book is not the harrowing, action-packed moments, but with the discoveries that are made and how each little piece fits this huge puzzle. The energy is constant throughout the book. You never really come down, though some moments do ratchet up the intensity. But it's consistent. And I loved it. It didn't end with this huge, apocalyptic bang! But it remained consistent. That's really the only way I know how to describe it. It was awesome. I can't say more than that without giving away the book.
This series also has a cast of characters that, to me, were almost better than the story itself. Diana, a confident, successful historian who has so much trouble getting out of her head. Matthew, a 1500 year old vampire with control issues and a seriously outdated attitude toward women who struggles to fit into Diana's world and is no slouch as a scientist. Gallowglass, Matthew's nephew...let me tell you, I think he was probably my favorite character. Emily and Sarah, Diana's aunts are just too much for me to describe here. And Matthew's family who round out the characters and cover everything you could think of. And, for what it's worth, I LOVE Matthew's mother. She's scary as hell, but awesome.
This series really does have it all. Science, history, mythology, magic, love, fate...ahhh. Does it get any better than that? And it evolves. The characters grow and change. The story grows and changes. It's a central theme of the book and it never waivers. There are, of course, a lot of other things happening, but for me the central theme was one of evolution. Evolution of creatures, evolution of love, evolution of family, evolution of ideas. It's extraordinary! This is more than just a supernatural tale (although there's is absolutely nothing wrong with seeing it that way). It is a tale about life, society, history, family, and acceptance.
I highly recommend this series. It's not gory, it's not violent, the vampires don't sparkle, and the sexy parts are sexy, not pornographic. It really is the whole package as far as I'm concerned. So, suspend reality. Clear your mind, grab some snacks, tea, coffee whatever and settle in for a journey. You won't be disappointed! Cheers!
In "A Discovery of Witches", readers are introduced to historian Diana Bishop who inadvertently calls up a mystical alchemical manuscript Ashmole 782 while doing research in Oxford's Bodleain Library. She attracts the attentions of handsome geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and soon enough discovers that he too is a creature, but unlike Diana, who is a witch, Matthew is a vampire. The Covenant that binds all creatures: witches, daemons, and vampires forbid commingling of different species of creatures, so when Matthew and Diana fall in love, all hell literally breaks loose. There are also other complications that add to the intrigue of the story: Diana's witch powers are somehow slumbering and only now awakening, although she has no clue how she is to unleash her powers or even control them; Matthew's love for Diana borders on the obsessive, resulting in overprotectiveness and possessiveness that irks Diana; Ashmole 782 is being sought after by all manner of creatures and places Diana's life in jeopardy as she is the only one who has been able to summon this elusive manuscript in a long time. The ensuing chaos sees Diana and Matthew travelling to France where they seek refuge in the ancient fortress of Sept Tours, which is also the de Clermont (Matthew's family) stronghold, where Diana comes under the scrutiny of Matthew's maman, the formidable vampire Ysabeau. I found this first novel to be an intriguing read; the author credibly weaves in scientific information into the narrative as both witch and vampire try to explain the existence of such creatures as themselves and what can be done to prevent them from becoming extinct.
In the follow-up novel, "Shadow of Night", Diana and Matthew have time-walked into the past, into 1590 Elizabethan England where a new set of challenges greet the pair. Diana finds a group of witches who help her unravel the mystery of her dormant powers while the couple continues to grapple with the prejudices that come from their union. This second novel is very much historical as Diana's and Matthew's lives become entwined with the goings-on of the period such as the witch hunts in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth's strategies to cement her power, and more.
Finally, the trilogy ends with the novel, "The Book of Life", and I found this last novel to be the most interesting and thrilling. This time, the story takes a very dark turn as Matthew and Diana return to the present only to find that there is someone from Matthew's past who is bent on destroying him and all that Matthew and Diana hold dear.
If you love stories about vampires, witches, and daemons, and enjoy history as well as a dash of romance, the All Souls Trilogy is a thrilling and engaging read. This boxed set is lovely; it contains all three novels in hardcover and comes in a sturdy cardboard box. There is also a bonus in the form of Diana's Book of Days (small little notebook) and looks great on my bookcase.
Although the stories are not at all alike, this one reminds me in some ways of the early Anne McCaffrey "Pern" stories. They create an atmosphere of closeness and intimacy. The reader learns to know and love the characters. There is a deep sense of satisfaction with the imaginary world and a feeling of "this is the right thing to do" even when times are tough and people suffer. The dragons and partners loved each other without question, and in the "All Souls" trilogy, there is the same love without reservation, even when there are personal issues to be examined and resolved.
This is not a quickly-read, shallow series. It is not a self-indulgent TV blood and sex fest. This trilogy examines prejudice, bias, intolerance, cruelty, "the end justifies the means", and other negative values while showing how the positive alternatives make the world a better place and enrich individual lives.