A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
ORDER A COPY: A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy)
Publishing Date: February 8, 2011
Paperback: 578 pages
Rating: 5 stars
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.
Dr. Diana Bishop is a historian, and she is currently doing research at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library on the history of alchemy. Diana is also the daughter of a witch, and a sorcerer, but she has no desire to practice witchcraft. She wants to earn her successes or failures in her academic career without the use of magic. While she is reviewing old manuscripts, she is given an odd manuscript. All of the alchemy pictures are slightly wrong, but that is not the only oddity. It is locked with a spell and when she finally opens it, she can see that the pages shimmer with hidden words like someone erased the pages and drew the new pictures over them. Diana has no interest in this bewitched book and sends it back to storage. Then she starts to notice all of the other creatures who have started to hang around the library; witches, demons and vampires are all watching her and waiting for her to recall that manuscript. Most particularly, one gorgeous vampire named Matthew Clairmont who is not only watching her, but has taken up the duty as her personal protector.
Unknown to her, Diana has located and opened the missing Ashmole 728 manuscript. No one is sure what is hidden within this hidden manuscript. Some think it is the secret to turn iron to gold. Some think it is the origins of the creatures. Some think it is an outline of how to destroy the vampires. They just know they all want to get their hands on it. Suddenly Diana is in grave danger, not just from the vampires and demons, but from the witches as well. They try to force Diana to retrieve the book, but she didn’t call for it in the first place and she doesn’t know how to retrieve it again.
In an attempt to protect her, Matthew takes her back to his mother’s castle in France to hide out, but everything gets more complicated when Diana and Matthew start to fall in love. The Commission makes sure that witches stay with witches, vampires with vampires. A covenant was agreed to centuries ago that creatures would stick with their own kind; and The Commission is not very happy that a vampire and witch are hiding out together, let alone getting romantically involved.
Diana quickly learns that getting involved with a century old vampire involves secrets, LOTS of secrets, and every time she thinks she knows Matthew, she is hit with more facts about her vampire that she does not know how to handle.
As if their lives aren’t complicated enough, they finally figure out that Diana’s parents have spellbound her so that no one could force her magic, not even Diana. Suddenly Diana is coming into her magic, but she can’t control it or call up anything on command.
Now Diana and Matthew need to group together all their allies because they are fighting too many enemies who are coming from too many directions, and the creatures on now on the verge of war over the manuscript and over their mixed relationship.
I was offered an opportunity to review Shadow of Night, book 2 of the All Souls trilogy, but when I read that it began with Diana and Matthew’s Timewalk, I knew I would be lost if I tried to start with book 2. I was overwhelmed with the idea of trying to fit another 588 page book into my already overburdened TBR list, but it moved so fast, I was able to tackle in it only 2 days…alright 2 ½ days.
Admittedly, when we move from London to Matthew’s ancestral home in France, it was suddenly like the book switched to a historical romance since they were living in a castle and spent a lot of time riding horses and Matthew started getting very bossy and Diana got very submissive. I was a bit annoyed by this change of characters. I could understand that vampires might be a little bit territorial due to their predatory nature and they would also be controlling due to age and surviving from a time when women had no place except to bear children and care for the home, but it was annoying nonetheless; and I was disappointed that Diana, a well educated woman with a doctorate, who teaches at Oxford, only stood up for herself on occasion, other than that, she let Matthew tell her what to do.
Other than my frustration with pushy, know it all vampires, I truly enjoyed the story and the characters involved, and I finally understand the excitement over the story and the upcoming release of book 2, which I am thoroughly enjoying.
Anyone who has read paperback bestsellers or even watched television knows that vampires are breathtaking, but nothing prepares you to actually see one. Their bone structures are so well honed that they seem chiseled by an expert sculptor. Then they move, or speak, and your mind can’t begin to absorb what you’re seeing. Every movement is graceful; every word is musical. And their eyes are arresting, which is precisely how they catch their prey. One long look, a few quiet words, a touch: once you’re caught in a vampire’s snare you don’t stand a chance.
Staring down at this vampire, I realized with a sinking feeling that my knowledge on the subject was, alas, largely theoretical. Little of it seemed useful now that I was facing one in the Bodleian Library.
This one was tall—well over six feet even accounting for the problems of perspective associated with looking down on him from the gallery. And he definitely was not slight. Broad shoulders narrowed into slender hips, which flowed into lean, muscular legs. His hands were strikingly long and agile, a mark of physiological delicacy that made your eyes drift back to them to figure out how they could belong to such a large man.
As my eyes swept over him, his own were fixed on me. From across the room, they seemed black as night, staring up under thick, equally black eyebrows, one of them lifted in a curve that suggested a question mark. His face was indeed striking—all distinct planes and surfaces, with high-angled cheekbones meeting brows that shielded and shadowed his eyes. Above his chin was one of the few places where there was room for softness—his wide mouth, which, like his long hands, didn’t seem to make sense.
But the most unnerving thing about him was not his physical perfection. It was his feral combination of strength, agility, and keen intelligence that was palpable across the room. In his black trousers and soft gray sweater, with a shock of back hair swept back from his forehead and cropped close to the nape of his neck, he looked like a panther that could strike at any moment but was in no rush to do so.
He smiled. It was a small, polite smile that didn’t reveal his teeth. I was intensely aware of them anyway, sitting in perfectly straight, sharp rows behind his pale lips.
The mere thought of teeth sent an instinctive rush of adrenaline through my body, setting my fingers tingling. Suddenly all I could think was, Get out of this room NOW.
The staircase seemed farther away than the four steps it took to reach it. I raced down to the floor below, stumbled on the last step, and pitched straight into the vampire’s waiting arms.