A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I honestly don’t know where to begin with A Discovery of Witches. I finished it two days ago and I’m still reeling. Returning it to the library was a serious wrench. I want to go to Barnes and Noble and buy a copy, but as I know I’m going to want to own all the books in this trilogy, I’m trying very hard to counsel myself to wait until it comes out in paperback.

In short, I adored it.

The novel opens with Diana Bishop, a historian and a witch, doing research at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. She manages to call up the elusive Ashmole 782, a heavily enchanted manuscript that has been missing for hundreds of years and that has been coveted by witches, demons, and vampires for as long. But, after the traumatic loss of her extremely powerful witch parents at a very young age, Diana has spent her entire life suppressing her magic, and she decides that she wants nothing to do with the manuscript and sends it back to the stacks. Word spreads quickly among the supernatural community, and Diana soon finds herself stalked by various people who want her to recall the manuscript so that they can learn the secrets that it holds, including a 1500 year old vampire named Matthew Clairmont.

Matthew’s motive for approaching Diana is the same as the other witches, demons, and vampires at first: as a geneticist, Matthew has been studying the origins of all creatures, and Ashmole 782 promises to explain all of that and more. Soon enough, though, Matthew finds himself inexplicably drawn to Diana and takes it upon himself to protect her. When the threats from the other creatures get too strong, Matthew and Diana flee Oxford. During her stays at Matthew’s family home in France and then her aunt’s house in upstate New York, Diana comes to terms with her power and her love for Matthew. When all of this causes an all out war with the powerful Congregation of creatures, however, Diana has to quickly learn how to use her power to fight for those she holds dear.

I think what drew me to A Discovery of Witches right away was how much it reminded me of Practical Magic and Being Human–eccentric witches, a witch who refuses to acknowledge her power, supernatural creatures blending with society and living together, prejudice among these creatures, etc. The fact that I had all this context made it extremely easy for me to step into the world of the novel. The added historical elements and the settings really made it a winner.

And then there are Diana and Matthew. I don’t know if I’ve entirely warmed to Diana just yet, but I have a feeling I will when she can stand more on her own. Matthew, however…I’m not into the whole vampire thing, but I found him extremely sexy. And his past gives him a lot of layers that I enjoyed seeing in this book and that I can’t wait to see in books to come.

I’m sure a lot of people are going to be calling A Discovery of Witches a Twilight for grown-ups, but I heartily disagree. Aside from the higher calibre of writing and research, I think the whole series has the potential of being a great fantasy/historical fiction/romance trilogy very similar to Susan Carroll’s bride or Fair Isle books. And I think I’ve found my new Harry Potter.

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