A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) By: Deborah Harkness
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.
Have you ever read a book and from the first sentence, paragraph, page you knew that you were in for a treat? The words have latched onto your brain and they’re already painting a picture in your mind and you know that if it can just keep going you’ll never be the same.
That’s the feeling I got when I read the first few words of A Discovery of Witches. Then I put it down because I didn’t have time to get lost in a book. It took me a couple days to pick it back up and unfortunately that feeling didn’t stay with me. It’s possible it was just because I couldn’t allow myself to get lost in a book, or I could have just been in a very fanciful mood when I read that first sentence. Oh well, it was still a good read.
It’s a paranormal romance written by someone who reads mainly literature. At least, that’s the feeling I got. That’s not bad at all, it just means less sexiness and more describing old manuscripts, architecture, history, and other things that would normally be glossed over or left to the readers imagination.
Throughout the first half of the book I just wanted to put it down and start researching something. Harkness did a great job describing Diana’s research and while at times it was tedious occasionally crossing over into boring, it made me want to pick a topic and become an expert. I felt a powerful urge to just leave everything and move to a large college and spend time in their library. The fact that my daughter was a little monster the entire time I was reading this might have been a contributing factor to those feelings.
The second half of the book was less enjoyable for me. I felt like the character completely changed. She went from being a loner, incredibly smart, very independent and very stubborn to becoming a damsel in distress. She couldn’t do anything without Matthew. It was almost as bad as Twilight. She left all decision making up to him as though if she didn’t it meant she didn’t trust him which is total bullshit. I felt like Harkness could have used Diana to push vampires out of their comfort zone and make them see that women don’t need to be managed, she has plenty of strong female characters, but everyone in charge is a man. It was disappointing.
I also had issues with pacing throughout. You could go forever with nothing happening at all. I understand that at times Harkness was trying to do a whole calm before the storm or show the characters happy, but it got dull and I just wanted something to happen.
I will read the next in the series, but I’m not in a desperate rush and will just wait for it to become available from the library.