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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent ending to the trilogy
The first thing to say to any potential reader is that this book will be impenetrable for anyone who has not read the first two - it is clearly the third part of a three volume serial and knowledge of what has gone before is vital to understand this book in its fullness. I had actually not read the first two for some time and I was rather floundering in places - an up to...
Published 11 months ago by Anne

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but over long
Good story but felt that after three books storyline was wearing a little thin. First book was very good but feel the following ones not so. The heartfelt declarations of undying love, etc, got a bit tedious after a while.
Published 11 months ago by Cat1


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent ending to the trilogy, 28 July 2014
By 
Anne (Sheffield, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The first thing to say to any potential reader is that this book will be impenetrable for anyone who has not read the first two - it is clearly the third part of a three volume serial and knowledge of what has gone before is vital to understand this book in its fullness. I had actually not read the first two for some time and I was rather floundering in places - an up to date knowledge is necessary. Having said that I can also say that this is a worthy final volume in this series all of which I have enjoyed immensely.

The author elaborates on some of the plot themes from the first two books and reintroduces some of the characters but she also tells a new story in this book as well as rounding off the whole trilogy. This is really a thriller as Diana and Matthew try to find their enemy before he can do them damage as well as prove to the supernatural community that much of what they have thought about their history is wrong and is stifling their future. Woven in with this is Diana and Matthew's story as they return from their time in the past, deal with Diana's pregnancy and try to save the lives of their friends.

The author doesn't make many wrong moves in this complex and engrossing story. It starts slowly but stick with it as it begins to pick up pace to a very satisfying conclusion. Lots of threads are woven through the story and there are many themes here - if you enjoyed the way in which the first two books are written you will love this too. This is the type of book that lives with you after you have finished it and I know that I still have some questions about some details which means that I want to reread all three books as soon as possible. The only thing about the book that I found disappointing was the relegation of the women to second place in the story - even when women have a major role in the story they are fighting for the life or status of a man - there are very few instances that I can remember when two women even talk to one another and when they do it is usually about men ! If you can live with this - and on reflection I can - then this is a book which has much to offer the reader.

I highly recommend this book and this trilogy for those who like complex plotted and thoughtful fiction which also engages and entertains. I thank the publishers for letting me have a free copy of this book via NetGalley in return for a review.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning conclusion..., 17 July 2014
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After reading 'A Discovery Of Witches' in 2012 and finishing the final book in the trilogy no less than two minutes ago, I feel a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because there are no story to tell and relief to finally know how the story ends.
I have never been gripped by a story in nearly 30 years of extensive reading.
Deborah Harkness has created a cast of characters to love and loathe and with nothing in between, and it would be a crying shame to never hear from these wonderful characters again.
Thank you Deborah!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect curl-up-on-the-sofa-and-forget-about-everything, read., 14 Oct. 2014
Vampire stories are so not my thing. Usually. I must be about the only book nerd not to have got past the first 20 pages of Twilight and although I love fairy tales and stories of magic I pretty much avoid anything to do with the bloodsuckers.

So why I have absolutely loved this trilogy remains a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it is the combination of witches and vampires that has done it – there are just enough witches to water down the vampires. Or maybe it’s because these stories actively try not to be the stereotypical vampire story. I love this quote from Matthew (the main vampire character): ‘And before you ask, I can go outside during the day and my hair won’t catch fire in the sunlight. I’m Catholic and have a crucifix. When I sleep, which is not often, I prefer a bed to a coffin. If you try to stake me, the wood will likely splinter before it enters my skin... No fangs either. And one last thing: I do not, nor have I ever, sparkled’.

The emphasis in these stories is not really on what a vampire must do to survive. Don’t get me wrong, that does of course form part of the story but its rarely gruesome and when it is, the gruesomeness is for a very specific reason. Far more important than blood and death are the incredibly detailed and rich story, and the characters themselves. To some extent, whether they are human, witch, vampire or daemon is actually irrelevant. Ultimately, this is actually a very beautifully told, though never simple nor mushy, love story: ‘To every question I have ever had, or ever will have, you are the answer’.

It’s also very rare for me to enjoy the third in a series just as much as the first. Perhaps the fact that there has been a significant gap between all three volumes has helped. A Discovery of Witches (Volume #1) was published at the beginning of 2011; Shadow of Night about 18 months later in 2012 and this concluding volume in July 2014.

The gap has also been helpful because these are not quick, easy reads. Well, they weren’t for me anyway. Each volume clocks up over 560 pages and contain so much rich and absorbing detail that I wanted to savour them slowly: ‘Dried herbs and flowers hung from twine strung up between the exposed rafters. I could identify some of them: the swollen pods of nigella, bursting with tiny seeds; prickly-topped milk thistle; long-stemmed mullein crowned with the bright yellow flowers that earned them the name of witches’ candles; stalks of fennel. Sarah knew every one of them by sight, touch, taste and smell’.

In some ways, I wish I had re-read the first two volumes before embarking on this. I’m sure that there are things I missed as a result of not doing so, but it certainly didn’t detract from the read. Harkness is very good at reminding the reader of significant events in the past so that there were quite a few ‘Ah yes’ moments for me whilst reading this.

With each successive book, the characters have somehow ‘settled’, grown and developed. The relationships between them have also deepened and I couldn’t help but be swept away in the story, just as I was when I first picked up A Discovery of Witches three years ago. If you prefer not to know anything about the plot, I would advise you not to read past the blurb summary...

**What the blurb says:

After travelling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, Historian and Witch Diana Bishop and Vampire Scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies.

At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches, with 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.

In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and University laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.**

This book is mainly concerned with four issues and all the resultant issues that branch off from them. All are interrelated and in order to explore them fully, the narrator changes throughout. The issues are the traumatic death of Diana’s Aunt Emily and the circumstances surrounding it; Diana’s pregnancy; ‘Blood rage’ – a hereditary condition passed from vampire to vampire and lastly, the search for the secrets of the Book of Life and Ashmole 782 which continue in this book with even more urgency: ‘The witches believed that it contained the first spells ever cast, the vampires that it told the story of how they were first made. Daemons thought the book held secrets about their kind, too... My job is to find the missing pages... then put it back together so that we can use it as leverage’.

Diana’s pregnancy inspires a great deal of interest in, and research into, ‘creature’ DNA and reproduction and this brings together a whole host of fabulous characters including Diana’s human best friend Dr Christopher Roberts, Matthew’s scientist second-in-command who is also a vampire, Miriam and a whole team of researchers with nicknames ranging from Mulder and Scully to Game Boy and Xbox.

The desire to have a greater understanding of the differences between creatures, and creatures and humans are to some extent resolved by the end of this volume and this has an impact on the ‘covenant’ which I won’t go into here at risk of writing serious spoilers. ‘Creatures had long ago agreed to a covenant to minimize the risk of their world’s coming to human attention... The ninemember Congregation enforced the covenant and made sure that creatures abided by its terms’.

Most of the wonderful characters from Book 2 return in Book 3 from those we love, to those we love to hate: ‘The mention of Benjamin’s name made my blood run cold. Matthew did have a son of that name. He was a terrifying creature, one whose madness was of unfathomable depth’. And the humour is still there too: ‘Peter Knox murdered Em. There’s a tree growing out of the fireplace. I’m pregnant with your children. We’ve been evicted from Sept-Tours. And the Congregations could show up at any minute and force us to separate. Does that sound fine to you?’

The book is full of Castles, Vampires, Witches, dusty old tomes of magic and a firedrake called Corra. What on earth is there not to like? This book manages to combine a rip-roaring plot with brilliant characters but is also full to the brim of completely realistic description and detail – if you’re a mother, I challenge you to read the childbirth scene without panting! All in all I’m rather sorry to have finished it and am hoping that Harkness decides to forget the ‘trilogy’ description and write a fourth volume. The perfect curl-up-on-the-sofa-and-forget-about-everything, read.

‘Our family had begun with the surprising love that developed between Matthew and me. It grew because our bond was strong enough to withstand the hatred and fear of others. And it would endure because we had discovered, like the witches so many centuries ago, that a willingness to change was the secret of survival’.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but over long, 30 July 2014
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Good story but felt that after three books storyline was wearing a little thin. First book was very good but feel the following ones not so. The heartfelt declarations of undying love, etc, got a bit tedious after a while.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it but frustrated, 10 May 2015
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I have loved this trilogy, all of the characters are wonderful and I have waited (a long time) since the last book to finally find out what happens to the delectable Matthew de Clairmont and his lovely Diana Bishop and also I was keen to uncover the secrets of the Ashmole 782! P.S. I think I may be slightly in love with Gallowglass!

Unfortunately due to other books that I was reading I didn't have time to read the first two in this series again before starting the final book, which meant the first chapter of The Book of Life was a little disorientating for me as I struggled to remember names etc but by chapter two I was hooked, I really struggled to put it down and had quite a few days sporting some seriously heavy bags under my eyes due to reading well into the early hours the night before - hey ho who needs sleep when there is a wonderful story unfolding on the page in front of you.

The end of the book came, and lots of questions were answered BUT more were raised in my mind! I literally read the end and thought this cannot be the end surely there will be more books to come (and I sincerely hope there will be!) We got the end of Matthew and Diana's story (well as far as the Ashmole 782 is concerned and their family) But I do feel that the Gerbert issue needs to be resolved (Knox got his just desserts and so should Gerbert!) and what about the item that Phillipe's ghost gave back to Diana??? surely there must be more to come. I definitely feel the need for Gallowglass' story to be told and also would love to see how the twins grow once their powers have been realised.

I am not sure the close was satisfying enough for the end of the trilogy - or perhaps it's because I felt so vested in the characters that I am just disappointed it is over!
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A GLORIOUS ENDING TO THE ALL SOULS TRILOGY!, 21 Jun. 2014
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness is the third and final book in the All Souls Trilogy, following the earlier two books in the series - A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. After two years of impatient but excited wait for readers, witch Diana Bishop, also a historian, and vampire Matthew Clairmont, who is also her husband and a scientist, return from the past to the present to continue their all-important search for the crucial but long-missing pages of Ashmole 782, an enchanted alchemical manuscript, commonly known as the Book of Life. This is no ordinary book as it holds the key to the origin of all supernatural beings. Its massive importance is widely known and a lot of evil forces are also searching for it.

Set in Matthew's Sept-Tours chateau, the duo had to deal with teething troubles brewing among the vampire family. Benjamin Fuchs, the vampire son of Matthew from an earlier marriage, is stalking them with intent to cause them grievous harm. In order to protect everyone, Diana needs to sharpen her skills as weaver, which is one of the rarest but most effective witch powers. Added to this is the advancing pregnancy of Diana with twins which upset the Congregation of vampires, witches and daemons. It is a ticklish situation because relationship between vampires and witches is considered unacceptable and against the covenant. Dark forces are at work seeking to destroy or separate them. Diana and Matthew must handle the delicate situation with wisdom and astuteness, and at the same time meet troubles head-on to survive.

The Book of Life takes the reader on an enthralling ride with a sense of urgency as Diana and Matthew's past returned to haunt them, throwing hurdles at every possible corner. Deborah Harkness skillfully steered the two main protagonists through dark and dangerous worlds, bringing to the fore the political intrigues of the stunning world she created in the book. It is not just about magic and fantasy, Deborah Harkness evocatively laces the story with unchanging truths which will resonate well with many readers. It deals with issues of ignorance and past deeds in a subtle way without being too obvious, yet clearly understandable, and how these can have implications in the now and future.

The suspense is endless, there is no dearth of romance and the action sequences as sparkling as noon-day's sun. The prose is as beautiful as ever, and the narrative as clear as crystal. The characters have taken a giant leap from their previous roles but ever endearing, dynamic, and full of life. More than the character of Matthew, Diana's assumes much more significance, ever lovely and appealing, even as her life takes a turn for better or worse.

In this sweeping and magnificent conclusion to the All Souls Trilogy, the action and adventure is fast and furious, without ever letting up, and there are a slew of surprises bringing to an end the mystery surrounding the enchanted manuscript and what it means for Diana and Matthew. History, science, romance, action, intrigue, mystery, paranormal, suspense, magic - name it and it's there in this stunning book. After a long wait of two years what else can we expect but an exceptional story that is a fitting conclusion to a stellar series the likes of which we do not come across too often!

#This review is from uncorrected e-proof advance reader's copy which I received in exchange for honest review.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The All Souls Trilogy deserves its own genre, 2 Aug. 2014
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Ejcb12 (Worcester, UK.) - See all my reviews
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As the final instalment to the trilogy I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Harkness’s world of old books, history and magical adventure again. The Book of Life re-joins us with Diana and Matthew following their return from Elizabethan London, but their adventures are far from over and they are a couple to be reckoned with!
I enjoyed the return of one character especially (but no spoilers here) because I did not expect to see this character again. But it’s the detail that made it for me, for example when Diana recognises a piece of furniture in the present that belonged to them at their Greyfriars home in Elizabethan London. This made up for the fact that we see little of the magical misbehaving house in Madison, but even the thought of it now still makes me smile – oh to have such a house!
Harkness has combined her thorough historical knowledge with immense characters and a storyline you’ll never guess. She deserves a genre of her own for the All Souls Trilogy.
If you love the supernatural or old books or history there is something in this book for you, but don’t read it if you’re looking for a trashy supernatural romance because Diana and Matthew are more classy than that!
I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I’ll find it hard to read another book this year that I have enjoyed so much.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not bad but not good either...hmmmmm, 26 July 2014
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Stuggling with this after enjoying books 1 and 2 hugely. Feel compelled to continue just to see how it ends and justify time spent on the 1st books but disappointed so far at end of chapter 10. I agree with other reviewers, that even after reading previous books in 2013, the opening of this last book in the trilogy is confusing with too many minor characters and much dialogue that was overloaded with background references making it feel like wading through lumpy porridge.
Why the author arranged the intro chapters to be heavy like this I cannot say but it feels as if the author was finishing off loose threads as if this was a historical essay rather than an entertaining work of fiction. Being related to the descendants of the Bishop family , this was a let down from my anticipation.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bleaker, blacker but better - a great end to the trilogy, 27 Aug. 2014
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After a slightly disappointing second book to follow the fabulous Discovery of Witches, I was hoping the final part would be a return to form. And it is. Mostly.

Much bleaker and blacker in places than the preceding books, a few scenes were disturbing enough to stay with me (longer, it seemed, than with some of the characters), while some of the elements which have been slowly worked towards - Diana gaining control of her powers, the mystery of the Ashmole book - finally get to move on in the plot. Paced better, more emotive, and with a few great surprise twists, it also added another layer to the world of vampires, witches and daemons.

Where the second book seemed to delight in throwing obstacles into every path the characters took, the third tends almost the other way, with revelations and clever solutions popping up at every turn and a few unlikely reactions which make readers suspend their disbelief a little too much. There's still enough uncertainty to keep you reading though.

As good as the first? No, the richness and depth which drew me in at the start isn't quite there, but it's still a great book with a satisfying ending. Worth the wait.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book a lot and found it bought back ..., 27 Jan. 2015
I enjoyed this book a lot and found it bought back the same comfort I felt reading DoW and SoN.However, I did find for a large part of the book it was a little lacklustre and lost focus of what the story was about.I didn't particularly feel the need for the descriptive part about after birth and colostrum that seemed to go on longer than necessary for a book.It wasn't needed and it was many parts like this that showed the story losing focus.The book felt a little messy, like DH hadn't put her full concentration into it unlike the other two and left many questions unanswered.The last 100 pages or so were great and really bought back the buzz and the reason that spurred on book 1 and 2-full of magic and fantasy especially when finding and putting back together the book of life.This book portrayed some very dark moments that were enough to make me shiver reading it.Much much darker than book 1 and 2.Most of this book centralised on the vampire family and bought the witches into larger play in the latter part of the book.
All in all, a lovely enjoyable trilogy.Definitely a favourite three books and will unquestionably read them again.
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The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy)
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