The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness – A Review


The final book in the All Souls trilogy, The Book of Life is a fitting ending to a fantastic series of books and well worth a read – but only once you’ve tackled the first two, of course! It’s written superbly, and the style and tone matches the rest of the trilogy as well as the subject matter, which, if possible, has grown even darker for the conclusion of the journey.

We are reintroduced to our main characters Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont immediately, who return to continue on their quest to vanquish their enemies and solve the problems in the world caused by the evil occult. The breadth and depth of Harkness’ engagement with the lore and supernatural of her world really help to create a believable and almost tangible reality to her writing and makes it easier for the reader to just slip into the action. Everything that the characters do is well motivated and the plot, although twisting and interesting, is easy to follow in a way that isn’t boring.

In this final segment of the trilogy, Harkness really gets to grip with her overarching themes of what ‘power’ means, what ‘passion’ is and further explores her ideas of family and friends. The relationships between the main characters are beautifully portrayed, maintained and developed, and there are moments when the characters feel almost like real people jumping out of the page. Actions and consequences are also something that Harkness’ expertly explores throughout The Book of Life, but without being too obvious or preachy to her audience. It’s subtle enough to be powerful and leave a lasting impression.

At times, although it is very accomplished, the writing style can get a bit dense, even though the themes, characters and plot are all dealt with superbly. The long, winding sentences can sometimes make it seem as though the author has run away with the subject matter a bit, especially when it comes to descriptions. Although, of course, the settings and places that Harkness’ creates are powerfully imprinted into the mind of the reader and stay with you for a long time.

Finally, it feels as though this really is a fitting end to the trilogy. The finale has been carefully considered and built up. You feel satisfaction at what each of the characters achieves and learns from their journey and, when the novel is done, it wants for nothing.

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