The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness | Book Review

“It begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches.”

I fell into this series after watching Season One of ‘A Discovery of Witches’ on AMC. While the television series captured  my attention, I am a huge fan of reading the book first. Luckily, I was able to read,Shadow of Night and The Book of Life before they have been developed or aired.

A Discovery of Witches | The Plot

In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a historian and alchemical scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a host of witches, daemons, and vampires and though she has denied her own magic for most of her life, Diana now has no other choice but to learn of the power she possesses. All of this brings forth a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist, Matthew de Clairmont, as they race against time, abolish the covenant, and infiltrate the “congregation”.

Shadow of Night | The Plot

Picking up from, ‘A Discovery of Witches,’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night,’ takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to 1590 Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. The search for the elusive Ashmole 782 continues and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in the ways of old world  magic.

The Book of Life| The Plot

In The Book of Life, the completion of this trilogy, Diana and Matthew time travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present – facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches.’ But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency.


I feel so torn in writing this review. I so desperately wanted to love this series. In truth, there are places that touched me deeply and brought tears to my eyes. However, there was much I found lacking and more often than not, I found myself bored. With an introduction to The School of Night and my own passion for history, literature, philosophy, and yes – even alchemy, I was truly hoping for so much more. It often felt like the author struggled in her writing to move the story-line along and in some places completely missed the target (or had so much happening at once that it was difficult to follow along). Also, each book is over 55o pages long, and sadly became very redundant.

This series was likened to “Harry Potter for Adults,” but read more along the lines of ‘Twilight’ – especially when it came to the female lead. She began the series as an independent free-thinking woman who had taken charge of her own life – and quickly unraveled – transformed into the helpless damsel in distress – a week after meeting the male lead, Matthew de Clairmont, the vampire.

In so many ways, I truly enjoyed the television series more than the actual book(s). However, I do want to give credit to the author as the concept is interesting, and the writing itself is very good. I only found one typo – and that was in the last book of the series, ‘The Book of Life.’



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