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The Book of Life: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) Paperback – May 26, 2015
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The 1 New York Times bestselling series finale and sequel to A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night Fans of the All Souls Trilogy sent this highly anticipated finale straight to 1 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list Bringing the series magic and suspense to a deeply satisfying conclusion The Book of Life is poised to become an even bigger phenomenon in paperback Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the presentfacing new crises and old enemies At Matthews ancestral home Sept-Tours they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witcheswith one significant exception But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed and when it is the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency
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I was really eager for this 3rd book. The pacing in the second book had improved on the first, the dialogue had gotten better, and the flow was less choppy overall. I thought things could only get better in book three. Unfortunately all the style progress achieved in "Shadow of Night" felt lost in the "The Book Of Life". I almost put it down after 3 chapters - quite a statement for me, especially for a book I actually bought at full price (over $11.00 for the Kindle version!).
I carried on because I wanted to know how Ms. Harkness would end the story, but the choppiness of the scenes, plot inconsistencies, the seemingly incomplete dialogue, and the revelations experienced by the characters with no foundation laid, were frustrating. I felt like I was reading a heavily edited down version of a much larger story arc and missing some really good stuff as a result. Some scenes felt cut short, disregarding the impact of the information just introduced. Other scenes were obviously just there to move the characters along to somewhere new because the author couldn't figure out how to resolve or integrate the situation at hand.
Character development is almost nil in this last volume, which is a shame given the number of lesser characters that were brought back into play. Some of these characters were used as plot devices, but they often seemed to linger on for no reason. The were more like background actors that refused to yield the stage after delivering their only line in the play. Thankfully, I had reread the previous two books, just before this release, otherwise I would have been lost on the few backstory points that were touched on, but only so briefly as to be more irritating than informational.
Unfortunately for fantasy books like this, the magic lives in the details and I found them to be sorely lacking here. In the end, there was ultimately joy in destination but not this final leg of the journey. And the ending was tainted by the arduous path the reader is forced to endure to get there. I liked where Ms. Harkness eventually took the story, but the potential promised in the first two books of the series is never fully achieved. The underlying path and ideas she uses to get from A to B felt sound but are largely unexplored and certainly under developed. I think the editing was perhaps not done as artfully as it might have been and/or perhaps the final book was rushed to press. Maybe it was chopped to meet length or other publishing constraints. Whatever the reason, the result is that the life found in previous books seems to flat line in this finale. If this was the first book, and not the last, I would not have gone back for more.
THE STORY: Having returned from the past, witch and historian Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont have to face both new and old dangers as they try to discover the importance of the Book of Life. Their lives and the lives of their unborn children are at stake as Diana and Matthew have to face old enemies and rely on old friends.
OPINION: I enjoyed this ending to the trilogy and Diana and Matthew's story even when I didn't necessarily like all the answers. The book suffers somewhat from expectations which were built over two very long and detailed books. Perhaps the answers could never truly satisfy the expectations, but I loved seeing how these two characters grew and changed and made a family for themselves.
THE BOOK OF LIFE finally answers the question that began in the first book: what is the Book of Life and its connection to Diana. In this book, the entirety of what Diana and Matthew have been building in the prior two book finally come to fruition. This story is is one about tolerance and building a family and being open to change.
I enjoyed the progression of the relationship between Diana and Matthew and how both of them accept and love all the parts of one another. There are few easy answers in this book which was good.
I certainly enjoyed seeing many of the characters in the series come together in the solution. The book ends with peace and joy and hope in the future.
WORTH MENTIONING: This book returns to the interesting combination of magic and science that was the hallmark of the first book in the series.
CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOOK OF LIFE is the final book in the All Souls Trilogy. This book is meant to be read as part of the trilogy.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.
SPOILER WARNING. DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THE BOOKS.
For example, after two books of buildup about how Diana helped Philippe while he was being tortured by the Nazis, they never show her go visit him, and just give some flippant excuse that "it must have happened, since he remembers it"? Indeed, if Diana can time travel, why not go back and save Philippe, Emily, her parents, etc? Also, what does the book of life say? Who wrote the book? How were the creature skins collected, etc? Is Diana always going to have a tree growing out of her neck? How will she be able to teach when she has letters and numbers in her eyes? Also, as an academic myself, I find it unbelievable that she can disappear for 1 year+ with nothing other than a quick letter, having filled out no other HR paperwork and having no discussion with her dean about who is covering her teaching load, yet still have a job to return to?
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turns to the plot!