Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

The Book of Life (Hardback)


Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Headline
RRP: £16.99
ISBN: 978 0 7553 8477 8
Publication Date: 15 July 2014

Having visited the Elizabethan age, the witch, Diana Bishop, and her vampire husband, Matthew Clairmont, have returned to the present. With their family in turmoil and enemies from without threatening their lives and union, their only hope for survival seems to lay in retrieving the lost Book of Life, a tome of immeasurable power, which holds ancient secrets which will rock the worlds of vampire, witch and demon forever. Although powerful, the pair remain unsure whether even this will save them from Matthews shameful secret made manifest...

The Book of Life (2014. 580 pages) is the closing novel in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy of books; the previous two, A Discovery of Witches (2011) and Shadow of Night (2012) were well received critically.

Being the third book in the trilogy, the story is a resolution of much which preceded this story. For those unaware of the world building involved, here is a world whose history is the same as our own, with one major exception. In Harkness’s novels vampires, demons and witches exist, hidden from the human population and barred from becoming involved in human politics and religion. That is not to say that they reject religion and their racial and religious diversification matches that of the human population.

The story is told from two perspectives: that of husband and wife Diana and Matthew. Matthew is a powerful vampire who. though a blood drinker. is not susceptible to the weapons of human myth: garlic and stakes through the heart. Nor does he sport Christopher Lee spiked teeth. He is, however, very long lived, strong and hard to kill. Diana is something more than a witch as she is a weaver. Whereas normal witches are able to cast spells, these are ancient, but they are unable to create new spells, only a weaver can do this. Diana hides this ability from her fellow witches as weavers, once numerous, were all but exterminated by their fellow witches.

The book works as a standalone novel well and whilst you may enjoy the first two books this is not a requirement as the story refers back to previous events to give you a good idea of what is happening and the relationships between the various characters.

The story follows two threads. One I will not discuss as it would be impossible to do so without spoiling a lot of the surprises. The main thread follows the search for the Ashmole 782. A book claimed by all three branches of fantastical creatures. The witches believe that it contains the beginnings of their abilities, the vampires that it holds the secret of their origins. All anyone knows is that the book is made from the skin of all three branches and that three of the pages are missing. As it is a magical book, one of the requirements is that it be complete. Diana already knows where the main book resides, but without the three missing pages the information it holds is displayed in a nonsensical manner. Matthew has one of the pages, but the location of the other two remains a mystery.

This quest becomes one of the driving forces and in some ways turns the story into a Dan Brown novel, with the characters ranging across the globe, following the clues. With their return from 1590, Harkness takes the opportunity to reintroduce some favourite characters as well as introducing new ones and resolving the mystery of the Ashmole 782.

The book is well written and Harkness takes on the mammoth task of balancing the mystery with action and the continuing love story between Diana and Matthew. For some readers the love story aspect may slow the pace of the book, but then if you’ve got this far you’re going to want to know if these lovers will find a happy ending or death at the hands of their families and fellow creatures, given that marriage between a witch and a vampire is strictly forbidden.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Kindle edition
iTunes GB
Digital Download
Kindle edition