Deborah Harkness – The Book of Life

A discovery of witches

Plot

When Diana Bishop, a young historian and alchemist, discovers in the Bodleian Library of Oxford an ancient manuscript, hidden there for centuries, she doesn’t realize it was a decisive moment in her life.
Descending from an ancient line of witches, after the death in mysterious circumstances of both parents, Diana had banished magic from her existence. But magic true nature is not easy to relegate to the shadows. The power of the manuscript is stronger than her choices, and despite all her attempts, she cannot put it aside.
Unfortunately, she is not the only creature to feel an overpowering attraction to that ancient text, which hides obscure truths, spells and magic. Witches are not the only otherworldly creatures who live alongside humans. There are also demons, imaginative and self-destructive, and vampires, eternally young and powerful; and they are all interested in the discovery of Diana. One, in particular, stands out from the rest, Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, Darwin-loving genetics professor. His interest in the manuscript is soon overtaken by the one for the young witch. Together they will cross the eras and unravel the secrets hidden in the ancient book. But the love that is born between them, a forbidden love by laws rooted in time, threatens to alter the fragile balance between creatures and humans and unleash a conflict that would have fatal consequences.
The first chapter in the compelling Soul Trilogy series is destined to make its mark.

Review

The book of Life (All souls trilogy #1)The book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Rate: 4 out 5 stars

I started reading this novel intrigued by the title and the book cover. I hoped it wouldn’t be the umpteenth love story between the vampire and the human/witch on duty decaying in the erotic worthy of porn… and finally, this book was the answer! Finally, a romance is described in an adult way, the characters are aware that true love and trust require time, and an adult person would assess all the consequences before embarking on such a dangerous love affair.
Gorgeous sensory scenes, the dinner between Diana and Matthew. Deborah Harkness is able to awaken all the senses with clean prose. I’ve read a few reviews where readers complained about the descriptions being too long-winded. Maybe, I don’t think they are so long coming from Anne Rice’s books. I can say that there are lots of descriptions in Harkness’ books, but I found them appropriate for the story and functionally balanced for the scenes. There are no long life explanations, flights of fancy, or secondary plots far from the main story.

As a science and history buff, I also appreciated the theories on the evolution of the species, which make it plausible that supernatural creatures exist in a real, tangible world such as modern and past times, connecting to the events in the book.

I didn’t put five stars because, in the Italian version (I’m an Italian native), I found the occasional typo – nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a light proofreading – but mostly because I didn’t like the handling of the point of view change in Diana’s room. It destabilised me as a reader the switch from a first internal persona to a wide-range third one.

Otherwise, I’m curious to read the second book. (Actually, I did, and I finished the whole trilogy!)
Note to the curious: there is a TV series based on the entire trilogy, with Teresa Palmer as Diana, and Matthew Goode as Matthew, and it’s complete! I suggest you read the book before watching the TV show because a few characters are calmer than in the books. I’m always for reading the book first, in general. Still, in this case, the book is better because it allows you to indulge in sensorial descriptions and the complex personality of each character, which is not possible to do in a TV show.

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