Friday, December 5, 2014

Review: All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

I got the first book of Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy as an from the library. I'll admit, it wasn't my first choice. It seemed to much like Twilight or some other vampire romance novel, and while I don't mind occasionally brain candy, it wasn't what I wanted at the time. But there weren't that many audio books in the library that appealed to me, so I decided to risk it. I'm glad I did. A Discovery of Witches is a fresh, exciting take on creatures like witches, vampires, and daemons, with an actually intelligent and interesting female lead character. After I finished listening to it, I downloaded the next two books to my kindle and read them.

I liked Diana Bishop so much because she's a scholar. Though she develops her magic throughout the trilogy and becomes deeply involved in the world of creatures, in the end she's still in love with history and books. What's more, she asserts herself with Mathew Clairmont, instead of forever bowing to his whims. In fact, she ends up rescuing him as much as he rescues her, which is a refreshing change of pace. By the end of the trilogy, Harkness depicts a mature, respectful relationship between the two of them, where Mathew trusts her to protect herself when necessary and learns to let her go a bit. I also loved the fact that Diana develops close friendships with other people throughout the book. All too often, it seems as though female protagonists (like Bella in Twilight) ignore anyone who isn't their primary love interest. But Diana actually grows closer to her two lesbian aunts who raised her as a child, and we see her make friends with many other women, including Mary Sidney and many of her fellow witches.

Likewise, Harkness' vampire characters defy stereotypes. Mathew Clairmont is a scientist who's interested in studying creatures' evolution. If his protectiveness of Diana is typical of "romantic" vampires, his fondness for modern science is not. Further, instead of being some perfect being, Mathew's depicted as a flawed individual who bears the scars of hundreds of years of violence. He has complicated relationships with his family, and a deeply guilty conscience. The other vampires in the series are great characters as well--they're a diverse set of fascinating characters from all eras and walks of life. (Spoilers) In particular, I liked Mathew's father, Philippe. He came from ancient Greece, and he ruthless controls his children even as he protects them. Yet Diana learns that he also has a loving, compassionate side, and he's devoted to the cause of justice.

I seriously enjoyed all three books of the All Souls Trilogy, and I'd recommend them to anyone who'd like to see a more intelligent, adult depiction of vampires and witches. 

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