What did I find in The Book of Life?

Book of LIfe

The completion of the Deborah Harkness trilogy was a must-read for those who fell under the spell of The Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night.

Let me preface this by admitting that I have never been a fan of vampire stories. I read Twilight in attempt to ascertain why it was so popular. Girl falls for boy who is really bad for her. The plot had a universal theme set in Vampville. I get it. Did I like it enough to read the rest of the series? No. Maybe it was all the annoying whispering. I didn’t see the movies either.

Then I tried Charlaine Harris’s True Blood series. That wasn’t any more endearing. I suppose I just couldn’t buy the whole situation.

Yet The Discovery of Witches sucked me in, no pun intended. I had trouble with parts, but not enough to abandon it. I appreciated the history and liked the characters well enough to see it all the way through. I even found some of it tedious. And after having invested the time it took to read nearly a thousand pages of the first two volumes, the more than five hundred pages of its finale should have been as delectable as a holiday meal after two years of strict dieting. I wish I could say that I didn’t want it to end. Instead, I counted the pages until I ferreted out the answers to the main question of what secret lay inside Ashmole 782.

Sadly, I found this volume so cluttered with secondary characters that I lost count, and eventually, interest. On the flipside, I couldn’t get enough of the dastardly antagonist, and just when I was getting into that plot line, the story took a turn down Mundane Street and hung a left, leaving me bored and in search of the main thoroughfare. Three quarters of the way in, I felt the author was pulling obstacles out of the air in attempt to hold the suspense for as long as possible. The heroine’s face-off with her nemesis from the first book was handled like a politician, with kid gloves. And when I finally reached the resolution, I said out loud, “That’s it?” Then I reread the passage just to be sure.

Plausible? Yes. Satisfactory? Almost. Even the showdown with the antagonist lacked punch.

I really, really wanted to love this book. The finale of a trilogy should be the best of the three. Although this volume had plenty of lovely sentiment and some well-crafted scenes, they weren’t quite in the places I’d anticipated. All told, I found this piece to be convoluted and disappointing. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Just like Twilight, I have no doubt that I’m one of five people on the planet who did not adore this book.

Harkness spoke at our local book festival last year. I enjoyed her openness and behind-the-story anecdotes very much. I became a genuine fan – of her. I just wish I could say the same for her fiction. But hey, she’s the one laughing all the way from the NY Times bestseller list to the bank.


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