The ‘All Souls Trilogy’ by Deborah Harkness consists of:
Title: A Discovery of Witches (Book 1)
ISBN 10: 0670022411
ISBN 13: 9780670022410
Publisher: Penguin USA
Publication date: 8 February 2011
Pages: 592 pages
Title: Shadow of Night (Book 2)
ISBN 10: 0670023485
ISBN 13: 9780670023486
Publisher: Penguin USA
Publication date: 10 July 2012
Pages: 592 pages
Title: The Book of Life (Book 3)
ISBN 10: 0670025593
ISBN 13: 9780670025596
Publisher: Vikings Books
Publication date: 15 July 2014
Pages: 561 pages
Genre: Fiction – Fantasy
What’s it about?
The All Souls Trilogy centres on two protagonists, Diana Bishop, a witch yet to come to her full power, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire determined to find the origin of species. It is set in our world with one distinction – daemons, vampires and witches dwell here too, hiding their essential nature, and unbeknownst to humans, have been co-existing with us since forever. If you are associating this with the ‘Twilight’ series, don’t. It is not. To suggest it is a thinking person’s ‘Twilight’ would do the Trilogy a great disservice. It is so much more.
Deborah Harkness is a professor of history and teaches European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California. Her vast scholarly knowledge is evident within the pages of these 3 books. The science is so intricately woven and the history exact. Of course there is literary or artistic license but then the reader will know where they lie.
Harkness’ depiction of the creatures and each character in this compelling tale is flawless. It is so believable that I can almost see demons, vampires, and witches living in this world of ours.
All Souls Trilogy is a story of acceptance and denial, of collaboration and division, of love and loss, of trust and betrayal, of family and enemies, and ultimately it is a story of acknowledging and being true to oneself.
Now, to each book in the Trilogy:
Discovery of Witches (Book 1)
I picked this book up in the local library. I was bored and thought to try something new – I am not usually a Fantasy book reader. I was hooked from Page 1 and finished the book in no time.
This first book touches the heart. It begins with Diana, an American and Yale historian over in Oxford researching at the Bodleian Library whereupon she attracts from the archives an alchemical manuscript of Elias Ashmole with missing pages of great significance. Diana is also a woman in denial of her genetic heritage, for she is a witch of potential great powers.
Then there is Matthew, an Oxford biochemist, whom Diana encounters in the Bodleian Library. A vampire fully aware of his power and on the search for that elusive manuscript. A man of apparent strength and intelligence is so attractive (okay, I was drooling :-)).
Bound by a common purpose, Diana and Matthew begin their journey of discovery of their history and their future.
Harkness has created multi-dimensional characters – of Diana and Matthew, and their family and friends – which makes me so curious to meet them, to want to know their depth, and Harkness did not disappoint as I delve. Each of Diana and Matthew’s strength and vulnerability are endearing. Their relationship of love resplendent with complex emotions yet so honest. This book is a page-turner and a surprise at every turn.
Shadow of Night (Book 2)
This book begins with Diana and Matthew arriving in 16th century London, using Diana’s time-walking ability. Elizabethan England is a place which Matthew is familiar. So it continues, Diana and Matthew’s search for the manuscript with stunning revelations about the manuscript, and of Matthew’s and Diana’s history.
Of the three books, this book is especially captivating for lovers of history and science. Based primarily in Tudor London, we meet the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Kit Marlowe (a daemon playwright in Harkness’ world), Thomas Harriot (a daemon astronomer) and Sir Walter Raleigh (a human confidante to the Queen).
The progress of Diana and Matthew’s relationship creates new intrigue, as they cross the great divide prohibited by the Covenant, an agreement between the 3 species, daemon, vampire and witch, which have governed the way of being for centuries. The book canvasses the notion of what intimacy can be and how it can be demonstrated through these two different-natured creatures.
It just gets better and better, as Harkness explores the meaning of loyalty and trust, and tests the limits of love. Diana accepts the possibility of her immense power and takes steps to own it. Matthew’s vulnerability is exposed, his strength a mask behind which he has hidden for centuries from all that he has been and done.
The Book of Life (Book 3)
The Book of Life was published some 2 years after Shadow of Night. It was too long a wait for me :-).
Diana and Matthew return to 21st century France, the location of Matthew’s ancestral home. Their fiery relationship continues to be challenged as Matthew wrestles with his past and attempts to build his future, with great implications. Matthew’s journey has tested his resolve, his sense of self. Will he learn the ultimate lesson – to trust himself and others who love him? That love is not destructive but constructive, and all powerful?
Diane fully in control of her magic and confronting the Congregation is an imagery to behold. As she takes charge, it is clear she has travelled a long way from her mind to her heart, both in her relationship with Matthew and her past.
Harkness continues to weave a story of enchantment, heartbreak, and resilience into her amazing alternative world. Reading the third book of this Trilogy, it is clear the magic of Harkness’ writing is how she manages to insinuate the supernatural creatures and substantiates normalcy in the daemon-vampire-witch-human world.
So the array of creatures is now bound by a common purpose to retrieve the manuscript and the secret to survival of the species. This final book of the All Soul’s Trilogy captures the imagination, speeding to a climatic end which comes full circle…”It began with a discovery of witches…”
Need I say more than, this Trilogy is a must-read?
If you don’t enjoy historical or fantasy fiction, step off and read something different…
And for Fantasy enthusiast, this Trilogy delivers on so many levels.
Realistic Characterization: 4.5/5
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
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