Title: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy Book One)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Published: Viking Penguin
‘Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries and she is the only creature who can break its spell.’
This book, this series, has everything you could possibly want in a story. Love, history, libraries, witchcraft, adventure, time travel and more. If you love tales the likes of Harry Potter or Twilight you will enjoy this read, especially as it’s a more adult version of those stories. I absolutely adore book one, I’ve read it three times now and it just gets better and better each time. Deborah writes so well, she makes you feel and she makes you connect to the characters on a level no other author has done to me before. Okay now in saying that i did also have some issues, mostly with one vampire in particular, our male lead, Matthew Clairmont who is an attractive professor of biochemistry and neuroscience. He spends far too much time bossing Diana around, growling at her and everyone else (he is a generally mopey character as he’s been alive a long time and has had quite a depressing past). He controls her, essentially, and she just lets him so that’s a bit of a problem for me because come on, she is a scholar, she’s a freaking witch! And she’s letting a vampire tell her what to do? It’s just a bit unrealistic to me.
The other issue i had was the book is a little bit too long and too much time is spent on arbitrary things like what Diana is eating for instance. I feel a good 200 pages could have probably been cut, especially since this is the first book in a series. Too many adjectives used, i mean do we really need 5 different ways to describe the taste of a cup of tea or wine? Not really. I understand it’s a way to help you be in the moment but you can do that with a sentence.
Diana is such a powerful character in the beginning and i love her family, her Aunt and Aunt’s partner are so eccentric, so loving and funny. They all care so much for each other and are fiercely protective, especially when meeting Matthew. Witches and Vampires aren’t supposed to fall in love and be together, the congregation won’t allow it so when Diana brings one “home” to her Aunt you can bet she wasn’t too impressed. What i wish hadn’t changed was Diana’s independence, falling in love doesn’t have to mean giving up yourself which is exactly what she does. This is a journey of self-discovery for her and yet she is more enamoured with discovering the dark secrets Matthew has than being in awe of the magic she possesses.
There is a scene in the story that really got under my skin and i think you’ll know exactly which when you read it, it was heart stopping and had me wondering if there would even be a happy ending. One thing Deborah writes really well is the romance and “sex scenes”, she gives you a sense of true desire while keeping it relatively PG (these scenes reminded me a bit of Twilight actually).
This book got so many mixed reviews, a lot of negative ones too, which i think is because this is not an easy read, and the people who gave it negative reviews probably thought it was. There is so much depth, both in characters and in the rich history. Deborah has clearly done her research and managed to seamlessly incorporate true history into fiction, a feat few authors accomplish. All i can say to those who start this book and struggle, don’t give up too soon, it is so worth getting through it, especially to get to the third and final book which is an absolute masterpiece.
Rating out of 10: 8.5
You can find book one here: A Discovery of Witches
You can find book two here: Shadow of Night (book two)
I’ll be putting up a review for Book Two shortly.