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Book Review: The Book of Life

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been almost a week since I finished reading this book, and I am just now able to collect my thoughts about it and post a review! There WILL BE SPOILERS, so please keep that in mind if you choose to read ahead.

Once again my expectations were sky high for this final installment of the All Souls Trilogy, and once again Deborah Harkness did not just meet those expectations, but she far exceeded them. Like... WOAH. The book itself feels magical, in that it is so complex and there are so many intricate details and plot twists and a host of new characters from the first to the last page. With so much going on, I often would stop and think, "how is she possibly going to wrap this up in this ONE volume???? HOW???" I kept expecting to reach the end of the book and have a little note from the author say, "GOTCHA! I'm writing six more books in the series. Stay tuned!" In my mind, that was the only way she would be able to wrap all of the storyline threads up in a satisfying, cohesive way.

And yet, SHE DID IT! She waved her magic wand again and created a story that is immensely rich, complex, fascinating, alluring, and altogether enchanting. There are so many aspects to the book that I would like to address, and since I lack Ms. Harkness' brilliant ability to organize ideas, you are going to have to suffer through my haphazardly scattered bullet points:

- First, the characters. It wasn't until I had fully finished the book that I realized how many new characters she brought in, to the FINAL BOOK of a trilogy, and she managed to do it so seamlessly I hardly blinked an eye! Somehow she made it feel like many of the characters must have been there all along; I felt like I knew them and they just BELONGED in this story (Fernando and the British witch especially).

- As for other characters that have been introduced in previous books, I was SO HAPPY to have somewhat of a supernatural reunion! They all got to come back and make an appearance as if to say goodbye. Some stayed longer than others, but just having them reappear was the equivalent of having your favorite movie stars make a surprise cameo in a beloved fan film. Not even death could keep our favorite characters away, and we get to enjoy Em, Philippe, Rebecca, Stephen, Amira, Chris (perhaps the biggest comeback of all from a character who only made a brief appearance in the first novel; we get to see a lot of him in TBOL, and he is a GREAT character who provides some excellent human balance to all of the supernatural creatures!), Agatha, Satu (we FINALLY get to see Diana dish out some good old-fashioned and much-deserved karma here; been waiting for that since book 1!), and many others. And of course there were the usual favorite suspects, including Sarah, Ysabeau, Marthe, Marcus, and Miriam.

- I must give a special shout-out to Gallowglass here. He has become as beloved of a character to me as Matthew and Diana themselves, and his storyline truly ended up breaking my heart. I cried like a baby at the beginning of the book when Diana realizes that he has been watching her all of her life, and I cried even harder later on when she puts two and two together and Gallowglass owns up to his true feelings for Diana. The way he handles that whole situation, and the strength and goodness of his character put him up there with some of the greatest male fictional characters of all time (in the company of one Atticus Finch, for example). And perhaps herein lies maybe the one tiny thread that didn't feel entirely tied up in this story.... I still felt as if Gallowglass' story was unfinished. Or maybe I am just overly obsessed and I wanted more. I wish in my heart of hearts that Ms. Harkness might decide to write a spin-off book (or series?) dedicated to Gallowglass. Again, this is just my selfish fangirl dream.... but you never know. It could come true!

- I will confess to being an emotional wreck from the time I cracked open the first few pages to the very end. I lost count of how many times I out-and-out bawled, or just teared up a little. There are some really beautiful, poignant moments here that will give fans of this series a very satisfying sense of closure.

- This book is nonstop action, similar to the first book (whereas the second book was a little less active), yet somehow amidst all of the activity we get to see some moments of true domestic bliss for Matthew and Diana. And for those of us who have been there from the beginning, this felt like an absolute gift to the fans. We all want to see them going through the journey of becoming parents together, and learning how to live (in modern days) as a married couple. For those who are really hoping to enjoy this aspect of the story, you will not be disappointed. I definitely loved those scenes!

- The secrets of Ashmole 782 and how that book finally came into its fullness in the story was just freaking brilliant. It was the book that started it all, and I wondered again how it would come to fruition and what role the book would play in the story.... obviously a big one, and I LOVE the way Diana BECAME the Book of Life. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

- As much as I tried to make myself read slowly and savor every word, Deb had me so enthralled (yet again) that I couldn't put it down. I purchased this book in several different formats: the Kindle version, the Audible audio version, and a hard copy. I kept switching back and forth between the three formats in order to snatch a few minutes of reading time as I went about my busy days. It was that same feeling I had with A Discovery of Witches, where I could not tear myself away from the magical world she created!

- I realize I keep using phrases like "SOMEHOW the author managed to..." and "I have no idea how she could possibly..." Please know that this is merely to convey my awe and admiration for Deb's writing talent and storytelling ability. The woman has some serious authorial game.... make no mistake about that! She wrote the crap out of these books!!!

I know there are some points I wanted to make that I am likely forgetting to mention, but if I covered everything I loved about the book, I would end up with my own novel here. Let me conclude by saying this book series is easily one of the absolute best ever written, and contains one of the most creative storylines, magical settings, and heart-wrenchingly lovable characters ever known. I never tire of re-reading the earlier installments, and am so excited that I can now re-read this one too, to my heart's content.

Like Diana, Deborah is a weaver, and using her magic she wove these characters and the story into existence for all of us to enjoy. As a fan from the beginning, this final book in the trilogy offered the ultimate ending and the perfect goodbye. Of course, that is the best thing about books: we never have to say goodbye. We can re-immerse ourselves in our favorite worlds every time we go back to page 1 and start again.

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