Book Review Books

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This book was an absolute delight to read. I had trouble putting it down which is to say it interfered with me getting any work done. I mean that in the best of ways.

The story revolves around historian Diana Bishop, a witch who has suppressed her magical abilities since her parents deaths when she was a child. Her life is turned upside down when she gets a book from the Bodleian Library entitled Ashmole 782. The magic within this book calls other magical creatures to it, including daemons, vampires, and other witches.

Diana meets Matthew Clairmont, a handsome vampire set upon discovering what secrets Ashmole 782 hides as he has searched for it for many years. Diana returns the book without giving much of a glance however and disappears. Even when she and Matthew try to recall it at the library, it remains hidden.

It becomes clear that Oxford is not save for either Matthew or Diana so they escape to France and meet Matthew’s vampire family. This second act of the book is very gothic in nature. The shift would usually bother me, but in this book it works in the texts favor. While in France, Diana is kidnapped by another witch with strong magical powers. She barely survives and Matthew realizes that she needs to be among her own kind to really be protected.

By this point, Matthew and Diana have fallen head over heals in love, which is more than frowned upon in their respective communities. Vampires hate witches. Witches hate vampires. The prejudices run deep between the two races and both Diana and Matthew must look beyond their preconceived notions if they are to survive together.

They escape again to Diana’s family home in the United States. There, her aunts and the very house they live in each have their own distinct characters. While the trek to France had a gothic feel, the trip to America feels like a trip to small town U.S.A. The stark contrast builds on Diana and Matthew’s characters giving the reader a feeling for who they were before they met.

To figure out what was so important about Ashmole 782, and to protect Diana and Matthew, the decide to time walk back in time. We, the readers, have no idea if they make it to their destination in time yet but the ending is hopeful.

What impressed me the most about this book is that it takes everything we know about witches and vampires from the fantasy genre and tips it on its head. I can’t even imagine the amount of research that went into the historical aspects of this piece of writing, but I’m impressed by Harknesses ability to include so much history without detracting from the fantastical aspects of her story.

I highly recommend this novel if you haven’t already read it (it came out in 2011 so I’m a bit behind in reading it). It has romance, action, and even a few good laughs. Bravo, Deborah Harkness. You made me like fantasy novels again.

%d bloggers like this: