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The Book of Life
by Deborah Harkness
Viking, $28.95, 561pp
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Here is the final installment in the incredible All Souls Trilogy which started with A Discovery of Witches, followed by Shadow of Night. (Click here for review of Shadow)

I was looking back at my review of the second book and found that I really panned it – and not without reason.  But I felt obligated to complete the trilogy and I’m really glad I did. This was a really big pay-off.

The heavy prose and long expositions are gone.  In their place is a fast-paced and very interesting story.  Against both known and customary knowledge, Diana is pregnant with Matthew’s children – twins.  Matthew still struggles with his blood-rage disease and both are shocked and enraged when their adopted son, Jack, from the Elizabethan century they lived in, shows up in contemporary times.  It turns out that Jack was turned into a vampire by his vampire custodian.  And…Jack has the blood-rage.

Benjamin, Matthew’s centuries-old son, has a deep agenda that he’s been working on for generations – how he can impregnate a witch.  The fact that his father had been successful only inspires him to greater crimes and horror.  When Benjamin found Jack after he turned and realized Jack had the blood-rage, Benjamin used him to commit countless murders – all of which prey on Jack’s soul.  Benjamin taunts them with images of captured and tortured witches and children and Matthew swears to find him and end his rampages.

Diana is determined to find the three missing pages of The Book of Life, otherwise known as Ashmole 782, the manuscript she found in the first book that started all the events.  She believes that making the book whole again may give her the answers that they all need about the origins of the three creature species, a possible cure for the blood-rage, and leverage against the Congregation.

But, working against both Matthew and Diana are his older brother and patriarch of the de Clermonts, Baldwin, and the whole of the Congregation.  The Congregation was established centuries earlier for the express purpose of segregating the three different creatures: witches, daemons and vampires.  Relationships are not only discouraged but death is the sentence for transgressors.  And then there is, unfortunately, the threat of Benjamin kidnapping Diana and/or their daughter.

The two plot lines weave about one another beautifully.  I loved watching Diana learn to control her magic and the explanations of how it worked.  I was much more sympathetic this time to their relationship which was made clearer to the reader.  The author did a masterful job of tying up all the loose ends and giving explanations without resorting to exposition.  The characters were well-developed, the plot interesting and complex, and the pace fast.  I really liked the ending…although I was slightly disappointed not to get an explanation about the tree in the fireplace… ~~ Catherine Book

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