Why is it, when we love something, we just don’t want to be critical of it? Take, for example, Baked Ruffles. I love them very much. They are just the right thickness for dips, so they rarely break, they taste good, they aren’t as salty as regular ruffles, and I like the texture.
But, and this is hard for me to admit, I hate the way they are sometimes so dang wide. I have to break them in half to make them work for me.
That’s the way I feel right now. Because I’m about to review the All Souls Trilogy, or the A Discovery of Witches book series.
I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but given that the first book is 10 years old (Really, only 10? Zeesh) some spoilers may leak out. And given that I am reviewing three books, yes, there may be spoilers.
Have I mentioned the spoilers?
The story of A Discovery of Witches begins with Dr. Diana Bishop, our female protagonist, finding a book, Ashmole 782, a magical alchemical manuscript. Diana, wanting nothing to do with magic, sends the book back to whence it came. But her calling the book forth has caught the notice of other creatures (witches, daemons, vampires), most notably Dr. Matthew Clairmont, a vampire.
In Shadow of Night, the second book of the series, we find our intrepid (really, Lauren? That’s the word you’re going with?) heroes thrust back in time into 1590s England by way of Diana’s witchy ability called Time Walking. Here they meet such historical notables as Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlow, and Queen Elizabeth! Rotting teeth included! In this book, Diana is seeking out teachers for her burgeoning magical abilities and both she and Matthew are searching for Ashmole 782. You know, before it became called Ashmole 782.
In The Book of Life, we find Diana and Matthew returned to the present, with Diana having learned control over her magic, and they have renewed purpose in finding the book. Also, they are married now! Huzzah!! They face many hurdles, though, in seeking the book. Most of the members of the Congregation don’t want them together and members of their own vampiric family might be against them.
So what did I think of these books? Well, let us start at the beginning.
A Discovery of Witches is an exquisite book. It’s almost lyrical in it’s writing style. Not words I say often. In fact, I don’t think I’ve said them at all before. It’s pacing is spot on, though, as with most romance style books, I think Matthew and Diana fell in love a little too quickly. But hey, when you know, you know. Ya know?
But that’s not really a pacing issue, is it? That’s a plot choice.
Speaking of plot, I like how DNA is important to the story. The world of science being such a large portion of a vampire’s life is both funny and thought-provoking at the same time. But that’s a small part of the first book, it’s a bigger part of the third book, though. The plot moves along quite nicely. No part of it feels like your rushing to get to the end of the book, which I appreciate.
The characters are rich, fully realized versions of themselves. They never feel anything less than at their best, even when it’s just side characters, like Emily, Sarah, Hamish, or Miriam. Our villains, on the other hand, feel a little less fleshed out. We don’t spend enough time with Satu, Peter Knox, or Gerbert for them to be fully actualized, but more time with them would have been nice.
There aren’t really any big plot twists to this book. There might be one if you squint hard enough, but the author hasn’t written these books that way. Everything flows seamlessly from one moment to the next. Okay, fine, there is one. And it does have ramifications for each of the following books. But it’s not like a plot twist where you are left going “OMG, why did that happen”, it’s more like “well, that’s interesting information”.
I really liked how this book ended. It left me wanting the second book to read almost immediately. And given that I got this book on Kindle when it was first released, I had to wait a minute. Stupid waiting.
Ah well. Patience is a virtue.
On to my favorite book, Shadow of Night! Deborah Harkness (the author) is a historian, and it really shows here. In my personal opinion, this book is where the writing and research really shine. And I love her writing style. It just seems to flow effortlessly, and I’m sure that took quite a bit of effort.
This book is set in 1590s Elizabethan England, France, and Bohemia. I love how the time period really comes alive through the storytelling. All the characters are compelling, though I hate Kit. He really bothered me. Which, I suppose, was the author’s point. I also love Mary Sidney You gotta love positive female friendships!
Again, the plot and pacing are on point. Honestly I found no faults with this book. Of course I didn’t, it’s my favorite. And how many times can I say something is my favorite before I am tempted to use that gif from Elf?
The Book of Life is the third, but not final, book in this universe. This, in my opinion, is the weakest of the three books. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great book in own right. It’s just not as strong as the other two books. The pacing was a little messy. Not terribly messy, mind you, just a little bit messy. The plot was great. I really enjoyed how that important detail of DNA came back into play big time in this book.
The ending of this book felt a little, well, not rushed, but it didn’t flow as well I would have liked. It seemed like the author had so many ideas she wasn’t quite sure how to get them all out. Was it still well done? Mostly yes. Will I read it again constantly? Absolutely.
I really loved the addition of Chris, he’s a fantastic new character. And oh boy Benjamin. Does he make an excellent villain. Disturbing, but excellent. And we can’t forget the loss of that character. If you’ve read the books, you know the one. That one hurt a little bit.
So what do I think of the trilogy overall? I think it’s fantastic! Everyone should read it! 5 Stars all around! Too enthusiastic for you? Try this instead: I find these pages to be full of the most wondrous adventures to be told of witch and vampire. You think I’m kidding? Turns out, I read these books this time two years ago too. How do I know this? Check out this photo of my cat sitting on one of the books. Silly KoKo.
No, but seriously. I love all three of these books. I read through them in about 9 days. And there is still the 4th one, Time’s Convert, to read. And (huzzah!) according to Deborah Harkness’ own Instagram account, she is working on a 5th book. So I’m good.
What do you think of the All Souls Trilogy?