The Book of Life
The Book of Life was one of my most hotly anticipated reads of the summer, promising a conclusion to the saga of vampire Matthew Clairmont and witch Diana Bishop’s quest for knowledge regarding the origins and secrets of creatures, specifically vampires, witches, and daemons. And for the most part, it delivers.
The final installment of the All Souls trilogy opens where the preceding novel, Shadow of Night, left off. Matthew and Diana have returned from the sixteenth century to the devastating news that Diana’s aunt Emily has passed away, a victim of power-hungry creatures desperate for knowledge of the whereabouts of pages removed from The Book of Life, also known as Ashmole 782. There is little time for proper mourning however as the threats against Diana’s family have grown closer and more serious. Finding the missing pages from The Book of Life takes on a new urgency as Matthew and Diana are plunged even further into danger.
Among those dangers is Benjamin Fuchs (or Fox), a vicious vampire threatening Matthew’s family. Benjamin is Matthew’s own creation, his son by vampire custom and law. He’s become aware of Diana’s pregnancy and knows there must be something unusual about Diana in order for her to be able to conceive a vampire’s child. Given this knowledge, he wishes to make Diana his so that she may bear him natural born vampire children. His cruelty is without bounds and his messages to Diana and Matthew grow increasingly more alarming and perverse.
The return of Matthew and Diana’s adopted son from the sixteenth century, Jack, now a vampire, adds to the urgency of their quest. Jack is descended from Matthew’s line and shares the blood rage of his father, a serious condition in vampires that causes intense emotions to send them into a killing rage. Matthew has learned to control it, but Jack has only a tenuous hold on his. And while Matthew and Miriam, his assistant, have performed decades of research on the disease, it is still poorly understood and incurable. Without a cure and with Jack’s inability to control the blood rage, the head of the de Clermont family Baldwin orders Matthew to kill Jack.
Readers have known since the first book, A Discovery of Witches, that Diana is a unique witch who would be put through her paces before she could fully come into her powers. Her character arc throughout the series is extremely well done. Finally here she comes to embrace who and what she is. Her magical abilities develop over the course of the series and readers see her learning more and refining those abilities, including important skills she must possess for the battles that are to come.
I was somewhat disappointed that The Book of Life did not provide more definitive answers. Once the book is recovered, it undergoes yet another transformation and the reader is basically left to wonder how it will be used in the future and the significance of the knowledge within it. Also, the huge revelation was not quite the bombshell I had anticipated. It has significance, but was something that I had already suspected based on the previous books and events.
Regardless, the novel is still a satisfying blend of fantasy, romance, and adventure. I found myself becoming emotional many times over the course of the story. The christening of the twins, Jack’s reappearance, and Philippe’s role throughout made my eyes well up over and over. I just finished and I already miss these characters and their world.
While The Book of Life was not the A-level read for me that A Discovery of Witches was, it was still much better than Shadow of Night. This is the conclusion to a trilogy and not the best place to start reading since it ties together storylines that began in the preceding novels. With several unanswered questions and a large cast of characters from which to draw, I can only hope that the author has plans to revisit this setting and continue writing more stories featuring several of my favorite vampires, witches, and daemons.