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Posts Tagged ‘Deborah Harkness’

BookOfLife-DHarkness2There’s always a sense of being a bit lost after finishing a fabulous book, not to mention the third and final in a fabulous series. Here I am referring to Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life, the final in the All Souls Trilogy. But couple that with just having seen the movie, Lucy – well, what will I read or watch that will measure up to either of them?

I can tell you the movie it isn’t and that’s August: Osage County. Great cast, but maybe I’m just not in the mood for such a visually dark movie about family dysfunction, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide. And that was the first 20 minutes. All that was needed to take it out of the DVD player.

Lucy-MovieI searched my many awaiting library sale books – I realized that after Diana Bishop in The Book of Life and Scarlett Johanson in Lucy, I needed to read about another brave heroine, as totally different as those two were. Probably neither this book series nor the movie is for everyone, but both amazed and captured me. (If interested this is a description of Lucy, but it does tell you how it ends, too, and here is Deborah Harkness’ website for more info on the All Souls Trilogy.)

After a search, I came up with Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, whom I know as a brilliant writer in another venue, picture books. Its book jacket describes it as a companion to The Giver, but it is a story that also stands independent of that book. I’m hoping Kira is the heroine who will further capture my imagination.

p.s. Cheers to our small town library! Not only had our librarian remembered my interest in reading The Book of Life, but she e-mailed me the moment it came in to let me know. When I returned it, I asked if  The Giver by Lois Lowry might be there, and sure enough, it was. With the movie so close to opening, I expected there’d be a waiting list to read it, but this is  small town … and it has its advantages, this one of many.

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ShadowOfNight-DHarkness2Deborah Harkness is on the top of my list right now for being a simply brilliant writer. I just finished Shadow of Night, her second in the All Souls Trilogy, and am as spellbound as I was when I finished A Discovery of Witches, her first.

What blows me away, aside from the sheer endurance it must take to write a nearly 600 page novel, is the fact that Harkness sets most of this book (which, although it begins in modern day France and New Hampshire), in Elizabethan times —  in England, Prague, returning to the Blackfriars in England, and finally a return to France in the present day.

When one of the two main characters, Matthew DeClermont, a centuries-old vampire and modern day geneticist, time walks back to 1590 with the last of the Bishop witches, Diana Bishop, we see him as Matthew Royden. Royden, a spy for Queen Elizabeth, actually once lived and was a member of The School of Night, which also included Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, George Chapman, Thomas Herriot and the Earl of Northumberland. Part of the author’s genius is writing a story that integrates all the above-mentioned, plus others who lived at the time, with fictional characters against a backdrop of historically correct time and place. It is simply amazing. DiscOfWitches-DHarkness2Some of the characters are witches, daemons and vampires; some are human. In the back of the book, Harkness lists all her characters with an asterisk next to those who actually lived in Elizabethan times, (including Shakespeare, though he didn’t belong to the School of Night.)

Harkness’ characters, whether human or creature, are rich, complex and utterly believable. I don’t know if her novels fall under the category of urban fantasy or perhaps fantasy, but I can tell you, she is hardly riding the coattails of anyone who has created tales in the popular vein of vampire mythology. She is in a category all her own. Although I have highly praised Deborah Harkness’ talents, I have not revealed the story line of the All Souls Trilogy, and for this I suggest, if interested, you read more about the two novels published so far. You can find a concise summary of Shadow of Night here and of Ms. Harkness’ first novel, A Discovery of Witches here.  About the latter, goodreads.com says, “Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense.”

Like so many good novelists, Harkness demands your full attention; the novels are challenging, but so very worth the journey.

 

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