Tuesday, May 10, 2016

book of life

The Book of Life is the third in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. The first, called A Discovery of Witches, and the second, Shadow of Night, were both good, and this one is a well thought out wrap-up to the trilogy, but it does look like Harkness has left the door open for a follow-up, if that's what she decides to do. I don't have a good sense for how popular this trilogy is, but it looks like is has the tools to be popular, and if there is anything that is keeping it from exploding in the teen market, its probably how smart these books are.

I mentioned in one of the early book's reviews that Harkness cut her teeth on scholarly writing and has number of non-fiction, history books published. She has taken advantage of her research and history skills to lay down a wonderfully complex and fact-based historical backstory for this trilogy. This is peppered with little influences that some of the stories character's have had on history as we know it; its a fun and playful way to help tie the story to the history we understand, and helps to give the story a plausibility by making the reader say, oh yeah, I knew that, and it was this person that influenced it. If this was overdone, it would have been hokey, but it was done with a light touch.

Seems to me that Deborah Harkness has done a fine job or placing herself squarely in the fiction market, in what seems to me to be a very popular genre.

I'll keep my eye peeled for her next book.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

shadow of night

The second installment in the All Souls Trilogy is Shadow of Night. Its a big undertaking for an author that's new to fiction, it seems to me, but what do I know. Deborah Harkness seems to know what she's doing, and she certainly has plenty of writing under her belt at this point given the scholarly work she has previously published.

Lots of times I find that the second or middle book in a trilogy ends up being a link, or filler between the beginning and the end of a long story arc; as a stand-alone book in these cases, they're sometimes a little weak. Not so with this one. Shadow takes the two main protagonists to a completely new place. The reasons for being there are obvious by the end of the first volume, but I was surprised at how much this diversion ended up being critical to the overall story-line. It wasn't just blab on the way to the story ending, but seemed critical to the overall narrative. So, good on you Deborah Harkness.

Harkness takes a different tack on witches and vampires in this trilogy, and part of the re-envisioning comes (I think) from her historical research background. She re-imagines witches and vampires as potential historical fact, seen through the lens of history and the accompanying hysteria early Judeo-Christian Europe felt about anything that seemed to lean in the direction of sin. Maybe there were people that were good with herbs and medicines, and maybe folks didn't understand them, were frightened by their knowledge, and assumed they were in league with the devil. Seems like a sensible motto: kill the smart ones. No wonder we had the Dark Ages.

I've had fun with this trilogy thus far. I'm hoping the professor can bring it home in the final installment.