A Discovery of Witches
Written by Deborah Harkness
Published in February 2011 by Viking
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. 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.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. I would have to say that is a paranormal romance (PNR) for the sophisticate due to the fact that it is not your typical PNR novel. I want to first point out that Ms. Harkness is a history professor at the University of Southern California and a wine connoisseur. She writes a great wine blog, Good Wine Under $20. All while reading this book; I craved some serious wine and wanted to know more about the history of alchemy. I can’t imagine the research it took to write this amazing novel.
Ms. Harkness created a wonderful character in Diana Bishop. She is a witch in deep denial. Diana has incredible innate magical power. However, in her mind, everything has a scientific and historical context. Magic really has no room in her life. She is intelligent, strong and independent. Then her life is turned upside down when in the Oxford Bodleian Library she calls up an enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782. She feels it’s magic but doesn’t understand it. She sends it back to the stacks of the library. By opening the ancient manuscript, she has pulled all kinds of supernatural creatures to her. Quickly, she is surrounded by witches, daemons, and vampires. They all want the manuscript which could hold secrets to their existence. One vampire in particular has been looking for Ashmole 782 for centuries. Matthew Clairmont is a 1500-year-old vampire who has obsessed about the origin of his species. He would do just about anything to get ahold of that manuscript. He is secretive, controlling and powerful and he would change Diana’s life forever.
I love all the scientific, historical and alchemical references in the book. It’s the reason I call it a PNR for the sophisticate. Ms. Harkness’s description of all the alchemical illustrations is so vivid. To me, each image just jumps off the page. Just like her illustration descriptions, her use of wine in the story also enhances the imagery of the book. I love the aroma and the taste of each wine and I want to savor each drop. Her depiction of each wine really helps in describing each character, especially Matthew. I can see him savoring each sip of a deep, rich red wine. Each character has their own particular drink that they prefer and which fits each personality. Matthew loves wine. Diana drinks herbal tea. Aunt Sarah loves her whiskey as does Marcus. It really, for me, paints a wonderful personality for each character.
As I focus on the academic references and wine, at the heart of this book is a forbidden romance. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Diana and Matthew’s relationship. She is a witch who feels quickly while Matthew is a vampire who takes his time (he has all the time in the world). Furthermore, vampires and witches have hated each other for ages. They are not supposed to love each other. But they do and it works. You feel their passion, doubts and conflicts. You want a happily ever after, but will it happen for Diana and Matthew? Time will tell! Literally!!
Like any good book in a trilogy, it ended with one heck of a cliff hanger. I absolutely can’t wait for the next book, Shadow of Night. Its release date is July 10, 2012. I will buy it the minute it comes out.