I have completed Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy. I haven’t completed – and enjoyed – a series like this since…I can’t remember. Although I didn’t finish the third installment, The Book of Life, in time to discuss it within the bounds of my Summer Reading Challenge, I need to get my thoughts out about the conclusion to the trilogy, thus the odd (to me) title of this post. Here we go.
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The momentum of both A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night was slowed down within the first page of The Book of Life. I read the first two novels with the hunger all readers wish to have with every novel they read, but the latter had me unfocused, sleepy, and inquisitive about whether or not Deborah Harkness completely misplaced her voice and style that made me desire the story in the first place. For the first novel, the ease and fluidity of each sentence, paragraph, and page, led me into the depths of the world as the protagonist, Diana, went into it too. The setup of her relationship to Matthew, the problems they faced, and the foreshadowed war made me not want to put A Discovery of Witches down, and in Shadow of Night we were thrown right into the action of late-1500s Europe; potentially awkward pause in the story line, avoided. But we had to wait for literary life in the third All Souls novel; it felt like I was floating just above the surface of the characters’ feelings and relevance.
The momentum did pick up slightly, however The Book of Life contains much more sitting and leisurely activity than the previous two books. Fortunately, this does not mean that nothing happens. The mystery of Ashmole 782 becomes more clear, the lines between creatures and humans become more blurred, which highlights the struggles of justice, acceptance, and humanity. These issues leap to the forefront more obviously than in books one and two, or perhaps they did for me in relation to societal and political events happening in the real world. The juiciness and adventure of the story dulled, but only to make room for increased contemplation, decision making, and discovering where one’s fear actually resides – which, I guess you could say, are all adventurous and juicy in their own right. Anyway, this shift does feel logical, as Diana and Matthew’s situation and perspectives, in addition to those of the many beigns in their lives, have been altered significantly in such a short amount of time.
Two literary connections struck me as I finished The Book of Life, the first, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We are introduced to the Unforgivable Curses in this book, and I was reminded of one specific curse – the Cruciatus Curse – when Diana spellbinds another witch, draining that witch of her power. I really did not see that coming, and still find it cruel and unusual, despite the wickedness of the victim. To inflict that suffering and pain, to utilize that power over someone – did I even know Diana anymore? That scene is still embedded under my skin.
The second, is from Jane Eyre. Diana never left let go of her relationship with Matthew, nor did Matthew challenge her morality, but after Matthew was mutilated (although he would heal with time) and tortured by Benjamin, Diana did not allow Matthew’s insecurities to get the best of him when she saw him in that state. It’s really all anyone could hope for in love, really.
So, I am finished with this trilogy, for the first time. I have to say, I enjoyed it beyond my wildest expectations. Deborah Harkness made it indulgent, intriguing, and intelligent. This will be going on my “to-buy or to-be-gifted” list, and I can’t wait to find the time to read A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life again.