Yesterday, as I drove back and from at local Coming to the Table, I finished listening to The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. I had whizzed through A Discovery of Witches, and I read – but didn’t much care for – Shadow of Night. So I was eager to finish this trilogy, see the mysteries revealed, the relationships settled . . . and overall, I wasn’t disappointed.
I will say that sometimes the narrative jumped too much for me, which might have been in part because I was listening to it not reading it on the page. But Harkness shifts from first person pov to third person limited pov without much warning, and sometimes, the time line jumps without a lot of transition – one more good edit would have probably mastered those things.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed the books because they blend history, mythology, booklore, and literature in a great story that, in the end, challenges prejudice and the “traditions” that bind us all to those prejudices. In light of all that has come from the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the book felt timely and powerful . . . and my hope is that its lessons reach behind the blinders of those of us who will not see.
While this is another vampire/witch/demon book, I found its depth more rich and its use of those creatures to be sophisticated and wise. I also loved the way that women in this novel – the series as a whole in fact – are the wisest voices and the strongest heroines. Finally, Harkness as a knack for the description of the human face that is quite lovely – she avoids repetition or over-description and still manages to convey emotion and language much like our faces always do.
I’d recommend this series to anyone who wants a read that is both quick but also challenging in terms of ideas. And if you enjoy studying the way various authors make use of mythologies around creatures like vampires and witches, then, you’ll really appreciate Harkness’ choices here – she throws in a couple of good zingers about sparkling vampires. 🙂 Definitely one I’d recommend.
Have you read Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy? If so, what did you think of it?