Aparna (inspirethoughts) wrote,

Book Critique 2016 – 10/04/2016: The Book of Life

Note: It's 2017 and I still have three months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: Witches, Daemons, Vampires and Humans all co-exist and what comes out is this marvelous plot moving between past and future yet anchoring to the present.

The Book Of Life is a historical-fantasy novel and the third and final part in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, published in 2014. The plot is set again in 21st century where Diana Bishop - a historian and a powerful witch coming from a long line of witches - and Matthew Clairmont - a 1500 year old powerful vampire and geneticist - brave the Congregation and evil witches, daemons and vampires in securing the lost pages of the long forgotten manuscript Ashmole 782 and take the final step in unlocking its secrets.

In the first part - A Discovery of Witches - Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont are put together in this quest for unlocking Ashmole 782 bringing them in the path of vampires and witches who are determined to harm them, rip them apart to identify the depth of their powers and their connection to this book. We learn a lot more about Diana's life and her ancestry, what she is and why her powers were spellbound. Also we see budding romance leading to vampiric wedding between the lead roles.

In the second part - The Shadow of Night - Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont time travel to 1591 in the hope of finding a witch who can help unlock Diana's powers and also key to the remaining two missing papers from Ashmole 782. They meet several literary figures and prominent people of the time, put themselves in danger, meet friends and foes from past and future, get married formally and manage to learn a few things about the manuscript's lost papers. Now the final journey of the quest starts in this book.

Diana and Matthew step back to 21st century after concluding their adventures in the 16th century. They come back to Sept-Tours with hope and good news and find both good news and bad news there - Sophie Newman (a daemon we met in the first book) gave birth to a baby Margaret (a witch) and Emily Mather (Diana's aunt) has been killed after an altercation with Peter Knox (the witch who is after Ashmole 782 too) and Gerbert of Aurillac (A tenth century vampiric pope). Baldwin and Verin deny accepting what Philippe's blood vow has given Diana the status as a de Clermont. Marcus as the leader of The Knights of the Lazarus has also created quite a stir in absence of Matthew that are biting back the de Clermont family. To appease the Congregation, Baldwin accepts a deal with them without consulting any of the de Clermonts - a deal that is not favorable to either clans. As the Matthew and Diana's mating increases, the fear of his blood-rage increasing also is not far. As a geneticist he has to now work extra hard to find what is causing this rage and a cure if possible, now that Diana was pregnant with his twins. And also unlock the secret of how a vampire can make a witch pregnant. Is it because Diana is a weaver  rather than a witch? Is it someway her DNA and Matthew's DNA react that the can reproduce? As the plot proceeds the Bishop-Clairmont family face challenges more than they have bargained for. How will they fare in the end? Where does this magical and dangerous quest end?

The allies that fight with the de Clermont - Bishop clan apart from their closest knit of family are - Fernando Goncalves (Hugh de Clermont's mate), Gallowglass (Matthew's nephew and son of Hugh de Clermont, a Vampire), Phoebe Taylor (Marcus's lover, a Human), Verin de Clermont (A Vampire and Philippe's daughter), Alain Le Merle (Philippe's onetime squire), Vittorie (Alain's wife and a Vampiric seamstress), Vivian Harriosn (High Priestess at the Madison's Witch's Coven), Abby and Caleb Pratt (Witch couple who help Matthew and Diana), Chris Roberts (Diana's colleague at Yale whom we met in the first book, a molecular biologist and a Human), Lucy Merriweather (One of the Beinecke Librarians), Leonard Shoreditch (Jack's friend from 1591, now a Vampire) and Jack Blackfriars (The kid that Diana and Matthew had taken in when they were in 1591, now a Vampire).

de Clermont - Bishop clan face the Congregation along with myriad of their enemies, some family and some not - Baldwin de Clermont (A Vampire and Philippe's son), Benjamin (Matthew's son, a Vampire), Sidonie von Borcke (A Witch on the Congregation), Gerbert of Aurillac and Peter Knoxx along with the others we have seen on the previous two books. Surprisingly some of the characters who were standing against Matthew and Diana in the earlier plots, change their course and turn tide.

The plot is told in part first-person basis, narrated by Diana and in part as a regular novel that an author does. Caused a bit of confusion in the beginning though. Also although the book is not divided into parts as the second one in the series or as a free-flowing chapters in the first one, we do see it divided by the forecsat of Sun in a particular Sun-sign. At every few chapters when a key event ended or began, the author inserted the meaning of Sun in a particular Sun-sign - both the light and dark sides of it. An interesting approach since it fore-tells the reader what to expect in the next few chapters without revealing much yet keeping the hold of the reader.

A fitting ending for a very dangerous and exciting quest. Loved the series very much and perhaps would read it again in future. Amazing story spun by the author showing her abilities of being a historian and a scholar clearly. I wonder if she will spin some more in future.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Remember these, for they would appear in the next books in the series in a surprising way:
a. From the book A Discovery Of Witches:
i. In her research, Diana comes across a manuscript that is a combination of Joy of Cooking and a Poisoner's Notebook with alchemical recipes.
ii. Matthew takes Diana to a special yoga place, a two-story Tudor manor house, called The Old Lodge, that came with its own splendid brick gatehouse. The entire building was built by Matthew in 1526.
iii. Diana has visions of riding horses in a garb from somewhere in the past holding a bow and a quiver full of arrows.
iv. Diana finds a book titled On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin with notes by Matthew in it - apparently it is the first copy that Darwin sends to Matthew for review and comment before it was printed in November of 1859.
v. Diana finds that Matthew could be belonging to one of the orders of Crusader knights (like The Templars, The Knights of Lazarus of Bethany, etc.) and also could be still leading one of the orders.
b. From the book Shadow Of Night:
i. Diana starts her own diary while living in the past. She calls it Her Booke and puts her name as Diana Roydon. She fills it with recipes of the day to day cooking, weather and anything and everything mundane from that period in the past. Her hope is that when someone comes across this in future they would not connect it to her.

2) A Congregation is a nine-member council of daemons, witches and vampires formed during the Crusades - three members representing each species. It was to ensure safety of every creature and also not getting the attention of humans.

3) Matthew and Diana keep quoting from different works of literature - poems, books, novels and stories.
a. Touch me not, for Caesar's I am - Unknown.
b. Tearful [will be] that day / on which from the glowing embers will arise / the guilty man who is to be judged - from the Latin hymn Dies Irae ("Day of Wrath).
c. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, / once (a) poor (man), may you have eternal rest. - from the Latin liturgy In Paradisum (Into Paradise).
d. I am the daughter of Earth and Water, / And the nursling of the Sky - from Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
e. I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores, / I change, but I cannot die - from Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Tags: all souls trilogy, books, critique by amateur, reviews

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