A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011) – Fiction
Book One of the All Souls Trilogy
I have a soft spot in my heart vampires. I was a freshman/sophomore when Twilight first came out and of course I became attached. Prior to that, as a middle schooler who preferred books to people, I had a ritual of returning home after school to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
I’ve always been fascinated by vampires and any other area delving into the mystical and magical. As I got older, I have shied away from that genre of reading, perhaps being burnt out by the Twilight series and subsequent movies (complete trash but fun to rewatch with a bottle of wine and a good sense of humor).
I picked up A Discovery of Witches after searching for a new TV series to watch and decided to give the books a try as well. A Discovery of Witches centers around Diana Bishop, a witch who shies away from her power in attempts to live a more human life. She is a historian and professor, currently studying the history of alchemy at Oxford. In her research, she calls up a manuscript from the library that is enchanted with powerful magic and holds secrets that the rest of the magical community want to know as well. Unbeknownst to Diana, this book leads her on a journey of self-discovery of her magic and the other species that inhabit the world.
It also leaves her to love of course – in the shape of a vampire named Matthew Clermont. Also a professor at Oxford, he specializes in biology and studying the genetics of creatures – vampires, witches, and daemons. In Harkness’s world, these three species cohabitate the world with humans. Witches of course, can cast spells and use magic for protection and to attack. Vampires are immortal, fast, strong, and need the blood of humans and/or animals survive. Daemons in Harkness’s world are less of the devilish creatures we traditionally think of, but human look-alikes that possess immense genius and creative power, but have.a disposition of manic behavior.
Harkness world is rich. What draws me to it more than many other fantasy books that revolve around witches and vampires is her great reliance on history to shape the world. We don’t just get hints that this vampire was part of the Crusades – but stories of their exploits of past wars and kings and queens. Harkness herself is a historian and it is evident in her story that swells with historical references. Harkness’s writing is crisp – however the book clocks out at a little over 500 pages. There are times where the pace feels slow and unnecessary. I do also unfortunately believe the relationship between Diana and Matthew becomes a bit too trite – almost like the relationship is too similar to other famous human/vampire romances. That may not be Harkness’s fault, as it can be hard to stray too far away from that dynamic.
A Discovery of Witches is a love story and mystery novel. I feel many writers can’t pass up the natural drama that comes with pairing a human and vampire together – such tragedy and romance to work with. In this novel however, we get the added elements of a witch and a 1,000 year old rule that says the species cannot intermingle.
For those who love fantasy and can’t help yourself but gravitate towards those immortal creatures, this book is for you. A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the trilogy – and I am excited to read the next two parts. The series can be streamed on Amazon Prime by subscribing to the Sundance Channel and is well worth the time and money. It is a series that nicely complements the novel and does justice to the original source material.
Lover of the written word.