A Discovery of Witches | Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness published Feb 2011

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

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.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

How was it?

I started this book almost 2 years after watching the first season of the television adaptation. My memories of the 8 hours first season might not have been excellent but it was enough to color my experience of this book. Most of the events of this book reignited my memories of the show but it also most importantly gave me information that I either didn’t pick up on in my viewing experience, forgot, or that wasn’t available in the episodes.

I think that the book is very well adapted, beautifully trimmed. It explains the pace of the show, that I remember being a bit slow. But let’s get back to this book, it’s a long and daunting book. Whether you look at the page count (580 pages), which usually doesn’t scare me, or the hours on the audiobook (23 hours) it’s an undertaking. Once I dove in, I thought the world was nicely introduced, but again, I was already familiar with it thanks to the TV series.

The first thing that becomes apparent, is the amount of information cramped into All Souls, book one. There’s a lot of detailed information on everything. It’s not exactly boring but the purpose of some that information remains a mystery. I love when the paranormal is weaved with science. It’s very much the case here, it’s actually one of the main plot points. The paranormal science and the theories that come with it is nice enough but as it’s often the case in this book it gets so specific that I found myself holding onto what I’d seen in the show to keep going.

The level of details in this story turns what should feel like an exciting fully fleshed out universe into an oddly detailed unfinished story. You learn a little bit about a lot of things but never feel like you’ve mastered any of them, which is why the book feels like a long premise.

As surprising as the detailed storytelling is, I didn’t expect to be so annoyed by Diana. Am crazy or was she annoying? she got on my nerves some times. Having her potential powers defined as it is doesn’t help.

Once again, I didn’t read the blurb before diving into this book, so I didn’t know until writing this review that was a debut novel, and that it was compared to the “Twilight.” The closest thing this book as with Stephanie Meyer’s books is the fact that *Spoiler alert*
Matthew and Diana aren’t oinking, but here it makes much more sense than in the “Twilight Series,” where the religious undertone were blaring.

A Discovery of Witches is a bountiful book, rich with details historical and otherwise. Captivating at times and sluggish in others. I enjoyed the experience, I’m just not sure I’d have liked this book or would have finished it – as quickly as I did – if I hadn’t seen the TV show. I plan to read “Shadow of Night” before the second season premieres and see how it goes.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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