Review: A Discovery of Witches

Review: A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy
Published by Viking Penguin on February 1, 2011
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 579

FINAL DECISION: Romance, supernatural, science and history combined in an adventure story that makes the 600 pages just race by. I loved the relationship between Diana and Matthew and look forward to what happens next.

THE STORY: Dr. Diana Bishop has come to Oxford. When a request for a manuscript from the library brings her in contact with a magical manuscript, she finds herself surrounded by witches, vampires and demons. For years Diana has tried to ignore her magical roots but her abilities as a witch seem to be demanding their due. An encounter with Professor Matthew Clairmont (who happens to be a vampire) changes something. Witches and vampires should repel one another, but Diana and Matthew seem to be drawn to one another. When Diana’s connection to the manuscript brings danger from all sides, she turns to Matthew. But the question is what is his agenda.

OPINION: This is a long and nicely paced book with a romance at the center (although the main story is Diana’s abilities and the magical manuscript). I began this book with a question to myself of whether I wanted to commit to this almost 600 page book and two more, but by chapter 3, I was completely engrossed.

The book is not a traditional romance but rather feels like a cross between an adult Harry Potter and Twilight (without all the annoying and whiny internal monologues). The story marries the supernatural and scientific as the story is based on Matthew’s investigation of the scientific origins and perhaps extinction of the supernatural “species”. All the scientific investigations are combined with Diana’s interest in the historical so this is really a thinking person’s book — and there is a lot of adventure as well. I explained this book to my mom as a more sophisticated “Mummy” story.

Diana is a woman discovering herself. Having been cut off from her powers and the supernatural world, she is the reader’s window into the world that this trilogy introduces. She is smart and active with a nimble mind and a tragic past. Scholarly and athletic and determined to make her own way. But she is no fool. Eventually she realizes that she cannot hide from her inherent talents. I especially liked her strength and her insistence on her autonomy.

Matthew is a vampire with secrets. But he is also a scientist with an old fashioned manner. The combination of the modern with the ancient makes him an interesting character. Of course, he is also frustrating (both to Diana and the reader) because he knows much that he won’t reveal. The complexity of his character make him a good foil for Diana.

As this book sets up the series, there is plenty going on in this book. Danger and mystery and discovery.  This book sets the table for the series. Nothing is resolved and there are still plenty of mysteries to be revealed. That is one weakness of this book. It requires that the reader continue with the series to have a complete story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is the first in a continuing trilogy so readers should know that things are not resolved in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.