Nerdy Sunday! The All Souls Trilogy- Deborah Harkness.

1.How/Why/Where did you buy the book?

I am not embarrassed to admit that I am the Harry Potter/ Southern Vampire Mysteries (Sookie Stackhouse Novels)/ Vampire Diaries/ Twilight reading kind of girl-woman. (As a consolation, I read the Kafka, Murakami, Tolstoy kinds too).

As a gawky teenager I also watched every episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I still catch episodes of True Blood on HBO (if any little ones and parents aren’t around of course!). It is obvious I have a fascination for the para/ super- natural, other- worldly creatures. Pragmatic as I am, I still can without difficulty imagine sharing a world with witches, vampires, elves, fairies, demons, ghosts, ghouls, demons, warewolves and other more interesting creatures and beings (human beings can get rather boring you see).

So when the internet was shoving this book into my face (Darn you New York Times Bestseller List!)




I caved. This, I was told was the last of the All Souls Trilogy. So, off I went to Amazon to find me Book no. 1 of the series…

2. What is the book about?

Well, the basic premise is a love story. This time, it is not between two witches, or between a mere mortal and a vampire, or even a werewolf. It is the forbidden, all consuming, all defying, uncompromising love between an old and mysterious (but smokin’ hot obviously!) vampire and an initially reluctant but later all- powerful witch. And yes, one is a geneticist/ evolutionary biologist from Oxford while the other is a Professor of Alchemical History at Yale. Phew!

This is just the beginning folks. By the end of the third book, you are light years away from where the book first started- and in a good way. There are spells and magic of course, but there is time travel too. The author (Deborah Harkness) is a historian who teaches European history and the history of science at the University of California; and it shows. She blends in fact and fiction seamlessly, and intricately integrates real-life history into the love saga of Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont. Imagine Shakespeare making a fleeting appearance in a current book.

Another important character in the book is a manuscript. An ancient book which is ineluctably tied to Diana. The book may well have all the answers,…

3. First impressions?

Honestly, the first few chapters from Book 1 (A Discovery of Witches)  is a bit of a dampener. I wondered what all the hoopla was about. The dreary opening scene at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, did not promise much, but I assure you- the pace quickens.

Also, in the beginning there a Twilight déjà vu all over the book. The brooding, moody, intellectual but gorgeous vampire who oozes power and authority can’t seem to stay away from the female protagonist. And the female lead? The confused, vulnerable Professor Bishop does remind me of the unsure, fragile Bella in the beginning.

Thankfully, despite a few superficial similarities; the books are very, very different. The “hero” of this book is definitely the female protagonist. She hardly ever needs rescuing by her undead prince charming, and grows into her powers as the books roll along. And dare I say- I enjoyed that.

And the best part for me? Diana is older than I am! Wow…when did I last read a witch- vampire/ romance story with a heroine in her thirties? Never!

4. Final evaluation?

The first book was definitely engaging, so much so that I did not want to wait a day before I bought the next ebook. I couldn’t wait for the paperback to arrive (even with single day shipping).

The second book let me down a bit though. Or maybe I expected too much.

The third book managed to tie up all the loose ends/ plots that were hanging separate. The “epic war” never pans out though (you will know what I mean if you read the book).

Unlike many other books of this genre, this book seems to  be targetted toward the “adult female”. Not the 18 year olds, thank goodness. It is a slightly adult version of Twilight, with a more rounded, assertive heroine who is well- read and thinks for herself. The science angle keeps things fresh and interesting; a break from the other books which focus entirely on the supernatural. Harkness even adds a gay couple or two to keep things contemporary. Nice touch! Of course, the vampires are uber rich; there are fast cars and fancy mansions galore and the vampire men are all breathtakingly handsome and the women exquisite (we women never quite come out of the Mills & Boon trap, do we?). I can forgive such sterotypes, I put them down as some unfailing perks of immortality.

5. How long did it take to finish?

They took a while. Each book has about 700 pages. And though I wish I could read all books at one go, I do have other things to do!

6. Critique?

At the end of the third book, you are far from satiated. Not because it is that fantastic. No. Mostly because, there seem to be many pieces of the puzzle missing. The bigger picture is incomplete. If you have read The Lord of the Rings or the entire Harry Potter series, you’d know what I mean. Those are epic stories, not because the tale is so unique; no. Those are classic good triumphing over evil/ great arduous, journeys to ends of the earth tales. What makes them so engaging and re-readable are the nuances in character and the attention to the smallest of small details. The books are layered, and each time you read it, you decipher something new. Harkness could have built a similar tale, but does not.

At one point, the magic of Ashmole 782 (THE BOOK I spoke of earlier) seems bizarre and the author herself seems confused as to how to present it.

I hoped for so much more. Sigh!

7. Who would you recommend the book to?

Let’s be honest here, the book is definitely chic- lit. So I’d recommend it to all the ladies who think they too smart for the Twilight books but are still curious about the genre.

8.  Would you read it again?

Most likely yes. After 5 years maybe!

9.  Do you regret purchasing it?


10. Favourite part/ quote from the book?

Well, it’s been a while since I finished them. Let me see I can find a cheesy paragraph or so 🙂

“Somewhere in the center of my soul, a rusty chain began to unwind. It freed itself, link by link, from where it had rested, unobserved, waiting for him. My hands, which had been balled up and pressed against his chest, unfurled with it. The chain continued to drop, to an unfathomable depth where there was nothing but darkness and Matthew. At last it snapped to its full length, anchoring me to a vampire. Despite the manuscript, despite the fact that my hands contained enough voltage to run a microwave, and despite the photograph, as long as I was connected to him, I was safe.”
Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches


I guess that’s enough romance for one day.

“His full name is Matthew Gabriel Philippe Bertrand Sebastien de Clermont. He was also a very good Sebastien, and a passable Gabriel. He hates Bertrand and will not answer to Philippe.”
Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches




Till next time..

Dr J.

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