Day 611: The Book of Life

Cover for The Book of LifePerhaps I’m the last woman left in the country who doesn’t think it would be romantic to be in love with a tall, dark man who could suck my blood at any moment. In any case, although I first thought that Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy was refreshingly original, by the third book I was not as charmed by this complicated series.

In The Book of Life, Diana Bishop, a timewalker and special kind of witch called a weaver, and her vampire husband Matthew Clairmont have returned from the past where Diana was learning her skills. They have one of three missing pages from a manuscript called Ashmole 782, or The Book of Life, and they are trying to find the others to reunite them with the book. It was Diana’s accidental retrieval of this book from the Bodleian Library that started all the action. Diana is also pregnant with Matthew’s children.

Matthew and Diana are in violation of the Covenant, an old agreement among witches, vampires, and daemons that they will not associate with each other. They think the Book of Life may provide information about the origins of the three creature races and even help Matthew with his research into a deadly vampire disease called blood rage.

In addition, they are being pursued by Benjamin Clairmont, a crazed child of Matthew who wants Diana and her daughter.

Like the second book of the trilogy, The Book of Life seems rather scattered to me, with Diana and Matthew running here and there on their various quests. The spots in the plot that could be climactic can be a bit of a let-down, as, for example, we don’t even get to hear what Diana has to say to the Congregation when she finally presents the evidence she and Matthew have collected.

After reading the first two books, I wanted to see what happened, and I was fond of several of the characters. But I didn’t think the novel was romantic, nor do I have much use in general for the overprotective male partner.

Day 141: Shadow of Night

Cover for Shadow of NightAs with most second books of a trilogy, Shadow of Night is transitional and therefore harder to describe than the first book.

At the end of the A Discovery of Witches, the first book of Deborah Harkness’s “All Souls Trilogy,” Diana Bishop, an Oxford scholar and nonpracticing witch, and her husband Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist and vampire, were forced to flee because a union between a witch and a vampire is forbidden. Using Diana’s newly discovered time-travel skills, they have arrived in Elizabethan England so that Diana can find a witch to help her learn her powers. Even more importantly, they want to look for Ashmole 782, an enchanted manuscript that Matthew believes may hold the secret to the existence of witches, vampires, and daemons. This decision proves potentially hazardous, though, as the age they’ve chosen is one of persecution of witches and Diana has a tendency to draw attention to herself.

In Tudor England Matthew of the past is part of an intellectual group called the School of Night, the members of which include Sir Walter Raleigh and Kit Marlowe. Kit is a deeply disturbed daemon who is insanely jealous of Diana. Another hazard is that Matthew’s acquaintances may realize he is not the same person as the person from the past. In the meantime, both Diana and Matthew’s friends and enemies back in the present time watch for clues to their existence in the past.

Although this novel is a great sequel that propels you to the next book, it has the typical middle book problem of furthering the plot without arriving anywhere. Strictly because of personal taste, I could also have done without some of the heavy romantic passages, although other readers will like them. Nevertheless, I am extremely interested to see how Diana and Matthew will resolve all their problems in the final book.

Day 43: A Discovery of Witches

Cover for A Discovery of WitchesBest Book of Week 9!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is like Twilight for adults. A couple of years ago I decided to try the wildly popular Twilight series and found the first book terribly juvenile. But recently, I picked up A Discovery of Witches, also extremely popular and with similar themes. I just finished reading it and had a lot of fun.

Diana Bishop is a Yale science historian visiting at Oxford to study alchemy. She is also a witch, from a long line of witches. But ever since her parents were murdered in Africa when she was seven, she has refused to learn about and tries not to use witchcraft.

She is working in the Bodleian Library when among the manuscripts she calls up is one called Ashmole 782. As soon as she touches it, she can tell it is powerfully enchanted. To keep true to her vow not to use witchcraft, she refers to it as she would any other manuscript and then sends it back.

Not long after, she meets a mysterious vampire named Matthew Clairmont, a well-known but reclusive genetic scientist. He is interested in the book but disturbingly warns her to beware of other witches. As she has been brought up to fear vampires, she is appalled at his warning and tries to avoid him. But she soon figures out he is actually trying to protect her from the other vampires, witches, and daemons who have suddenly appeared in the library, despite the dictum that the three species are not supposed to draw attention to themselves from humans. Matthew explains that they all want Ashmole 782.

Soon Diana and Matthew have formed a strong bond of attraction, but because Diana has neglected her education in her heritage, she is unaware that relationships between the species are strictly forbidden.

This is a lively and engrossing book, sometimes light and comic but other times fraught with romance, danger, action, and suspense. You care about Diana and Matthew and are interested to see where their story is leading. The book also introduces other fascinating characters, such as Diana’s aunts, Matthew’s family, and Diana’s aunt’s house. Yes, it is a character. Matthew–overly protective, quick to anger, not always under control–makes a much more convincing vampire than does the sulky, languishing Edward from Twilight, and Diana is a lot smarter and more interesting than Bella. This book is the first of a series of three, and I’ll be looking forward to the second book.