I used to pick books by their cover. In the days before smart phones and readily available internet book reviews, my best determinant for a book's quality was the flashiness of the cover and the catchiness of the title. But now with a smart phone always in my pocket, I can instead rely on "expert" reviews for assistance. Some list of highly rated books had Debroah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy near the top, so when a trip to my local library revealed an entire shelf filled with multiple copies of the trilogy, I checked out the lot. My "expert" opinion of the trilogy, here, is mostly spoiler free.
Enter the women...
Diana Bishop is an Oxford educated PhD and Yale history professor, who is highly respected in her field of study and amazingly brilliant. Because her hobbies include rowing, running and yoga, she remains fit and eye-catchingly beautiful despite approaching middle age. She is also, of course, a (super) witch of unusual talent and strength, despite her attempts to forgot her witchy heritage. Bishop is clearly an all around exaggerated and cooler version of author and USC history professor Debroah Harkness (who received her PhD from well respected, but nonetheless uncool cow college, UC Davis).
Enter the vampire...
Matthew Clairmont is (about) 1500 years of age, fabulously wealthy (thanks to hundreds of years worth of accumulated riches), astonishingly brilliant and unnaturally well-educated (since he spent his unnatural lifetime accumulating degrees in various subject areas) and of course, broodingly handsome (because all vampires are HAWT). Clairmont has that bad-boy vibe, with a bloody and messy past (what member of the un-dead doesn't) hidden beneath a gentlemen's veneer. But his best characteristic is his deep love and undying devotion for his one true love, Debroah... I mean, Diana Bishop.
With Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! and Heart!...
The star crossed lovers Bishop and Clairmont must use their combined powers and a little help from their magical and non-magical friends to embark on a twisting adventure of self-preservation and a quest to save the world from evil.
Although the All Souls Trilogy thankfully avoids true Twilight levels of creepiness, it clearly possesses all the right elements to follow in the wake of the very profitable teen vampire novels. One of the most notable similarities being an unrealistic romance between a blandly awesome Mary Sue and her vampire Darcy, that goes from zero to fanfic faster then Hermoine Granger can raise her hand. A little sprinkle of creepy night time voyeurism and a dash of B.O. sniffing is even thrown in for good measure.
Although occasionally fast paced, the trilogy is generally slow moving. Too much time is spent describing the layout of a reading room at an Oxford college and the mechanics of requesting books. In the time it takes to describe Bishop's early morning run I could have just taken my own morning run. Add in numerous flashbacks, time jumps, side plots and ancillary characters, and the story is a lurching, disjointed slog-fest desperately in need of a therapist.
Taking the advice "write what you know" true to heart, Harkness plays to her strengths and litters the trilogy with historical tidbits and by the second book, we start to see quite a bit of historical fiction involving the likes of Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. But Harkness overindulges, and excessive in-depth descriptions of all things 16th century England are endless, contributing little to an already dragging plot and only succeed in stoking the enthusiasm of history buffs on the hunt for historical cameos.
All novels suffer deficiencies. A Twilight lover might find it in their heart to ignore the flaws of this trilogy. And make no mistake, this is a series meant to endear itself to the same people who enjoyed Twilight. For someone like me, the moment I started to see Twilight connections my guard was up and every word that followed faced a deeply prejudiced reader. I still finished the trilogy, with a generous helping of speed reading, because I hate to leave a book unfinished. When I turned the last page and everything was tied up in a nice pretty pink bow, and all the heroes were holding hands and singing kumbaya, I breathed a sigh of relief.