The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Much of all the esoteric stuff I loved from the first read was just as enjoyable the second time around, but this time I focused more on the people and the relationships a bit more.
Ben, for example, was something of a mystery and less a bogeyman. I may have gotten a bit annoyed with the babies this time, all the focus on them, but to each their own when it comes to that. And then there was a few slow parts that annoyed me but not by much. There was enough really fantastic stuff going on here, from extra science, from Apolo's discoveries and Diana's hunting for truth, that I never lost interest.
Indeed, it's the full extent of the tale that makes the entire book shine. We've been building on the previous two pretty gloriously and there are very nice carryovers from both as well as tragedies, but it's the final payoff of including everything in the alchemical mixture that makes the final potion work wonders.
I think this UF is probably one of the very best, smartest, and emotional works ever to rise out of the popcorn pile. Indeed, it's more of a serious work of literature. It stands out. BUT only as a trilogy.
I enjoyed this one almost as much as I enjoyed the previous two, but for different reasons.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed it for none of the reasons that I was expecting. Firstly, I enjoy not just symbolism but the symbols themselves. They weren't just blazoning on the page, after all, they were blazoning in my mind. None of it was particularly complicated or ominous, just relevant to the tale in both the obvious ways and the not so obvious ways. I tried looking at the books from the point of view of the symbols, and the tales become as crisp as Christmas Morning. It is really quite nice to have new fiction that can turn alchemy into alchemy.
Secondly, I enjoy themes that speak to the heart of the world and why we're living in it without becoming some broken down biological soup or a bunch of creatures standing around holding hands and singing "we are the world". Sure, a little bit of both happens in the novel, but I noticed something. Life goes on. Life always goes on. The goddess Diana or Artemis always knew this. It's not about hunting or justice, after all. It's also about Apollo who's notoriously absent from all three novels except the pages of the alchemy. Life goes on. There's no conflict between the gods. There's no tension, and indeed, there never was. Brother and Sister were twins, after all.
Sister night was one of the main characters in the trilogy, from within Diana and her being a chimera, to the entrance of the goddess herself, to the overwhelming overabundance of female witches except for her father and Peter, to the title of the second book, to the arrow at the end. Nothing was as simple as a direct one-to-one correlation, here. It was the deeper themes that really sparked my imagination.
That and the novel also happened to be a fun urban fantasy romp. The issues at hand were on a deeper level than the action, and although there was a little action and a little romance thrown in, they were all in service to a greater power and not gratuitous.
All said, I am very impressed. Thank you!
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