Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review - Deborah Harkness's The Book of Life

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
ARC Provided by the Publisher
Published by: Viking Adult
Publication Date: July 15th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 576 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Matthew and Diana return from the past to find much changed and much the same as it ever was. There has been loses while they were gone, and they must morn them. But life goes on, as Diana's ever increasing belly shows. The time has come to find answers as the lives growing in Diana's belly depend on them. Matthew delves into the science side at Yale while Diana goes to England to find out the answers of Ashmole 782. New and old technologies are used to find out secrets of their supernatural kind. Secrets that will hopefully bring the Congregation to a new understanding of how the world works. Witches and vampires and demons are more alike then they are different and these similarities should be embraced not segregated. But in the end there will be a battle, but will it be political or will Matthew's dangerous past come back to haunt him?

The "All Souls Trilogy" baffles me. It has so much wasted potential but, like some other series that I have found middling, it has a fierce fanbase that I don't want to rile, as well as a few close friends. This is the same fanbase that can see no wrong in Outlander, the forty year old women who will beat you to death if you say anything against Jamie Fraser. I just don't get it. Maybe I'm just not at the point in my life where this reaches out and touches something deep in my soul, instead I'm sticking by my opinion that this is Twilight for middle aged women. Before I actually read this installment I was excited for the conclusion of this series. Shadow of Night really captured my interest with it's historical bent, but sadly this volume decided to focus on science versus history. The mess this resulted in felt like Michael Crichton writing YA. The writing was clumsy with the shift from Diana's first person narration to Matthew's third person narration. The ending was a trite cliche with an extremely unrealistic HEA. In fact, was there actually enough to merit the moniker "book" when anything of interest was unresolved and everything seemed like it could be summed up in an afterword?

Now for the fun part. The part where I take apart The Book of Life and point at everything that drove me crazy. Shall we start with Stevie Nicks? I think we shall. What the hell is it with Stevie Nicks and witches? Yes she's rumored to be one, but she denies it so often and then does an about turn that you could get whiplash. But the fact of witches identifying with her music has gotten to a point in our culture where it's so cliched that to use it you seriously are going to incur my wrath. It just shows a laziness that you can't think of something more interesting and will just rely on the stereotype. Wasn't this whole series trying to say that things are more complicated and confusing then what you'd expect? Well, that means I'd expect something better then Stevie Nicks. At least she didn't show up and do an extended music video in the middle of the book for absolutely no reason, thank you American Horror Story: Coven and Ryan Murphy for bringing me that cringe worthy moment in television history. That moment is also the first thing that popped in my mind while reading this book. Ug. Stop.

As Gallowglass says "This family was more fun when we had fewer medical degrees." Thank you Gallowglass, aka the one character I like, for pointing out the obvious. The characters zeal for scientifically researching the world of creatures and their problems, from studying blood rage to genomes to The Book of Life itself made me want to scream in frustration. I like the history, I don't like the science. Yes, in books that tackle supernatural beings we have to look at the world they now inhabit, the fact that DNA and genetics can uncover centuries old secrets, but do we need to do it in such detail? Let's all go to Yale and get a research grant and blah blah blah, blood rage, blah blah blah, babies, blah blah blah, what was I even talking about? Now I'm not saying science can't be interesting, but it's more interesting when it's real. When it's made up mumbo jumbo by an author that isn't that accomplished and has tons of plot holes and inconsistencies? No thanks.

But you know what's worse then science? Politics! I hate politics. I pay attention because it's what every good citizen should do. Also, I live in the epicenter of political evil right now, so, well, it's a main topic of conversation, as in, what stupid and illegal thing happened today? But do I want to read, watch, listen, osmose politics for fun? NO! Here we have ANOTHER book with an unnatural union being thwarted by a secret governing body that just doesn't get the world is changing. Again, Twilight much? Any urban fantasy author will tell Harkness that it's best to leave the overly political BS that governs your world off stage. Seriously, all those meetings in Venice where they were droning on and on about all the different species that Harkness has created I was more interested in the architecture. The boat rides to and from the meetings were more thrilling. How did she make Venice boring? Well, she made a lot of things boring and took a lot of pages to do it, so really, I shouldn't be that surprised.

Writing this review is making me realize why it took me a month to read this book. ME, who usually devours a book in a few days no matter the length. OK, let's get this over with. So, what annoyance shall I conclude with? Oh, how about Diana! At the beginning of this series Diana was the conduit for the reader. She was fairly normal, aside from the whole being a witch thing. But over time as her relationship with Matthew deepened, she has become something other then human, something more. She now has arrows and firedrakes and weaving IN HER ARM! Yes, it's kind of cool, but there's also the fact that she is totally unrelatable now. She's a superhero, so we can look up to her, but the truth is, do people really truly ever relate to superheroes? They might want to be them, but relatability isn't part of that. Maybe my whole problem with this book and it's fans is that I can't relate at all and perhaps it's better if we just keep our distance.


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