*SPOILER ALERT* A Discovery of Witches is a contemporary fantasy romance, which I wasn’t enthusiastic to read at first. It comes in at a whopping 500+ pages and the first few chapters were a bit slow. I’m glad I stuck it out, though, as the pacing certainly picked up the pace by Chapter 5.This is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. This review was first posted on Goodreads.
Diana Bishop, descendant of the famous Bridget Bishop burned at the stake in Salem, MA, is a self-made scholar, refusing to do magic. Her life is turned upside down the moment she calls for Ashmole 782 and then falls into the arms of vampire, Matthew Clairmont. She is hunted for her ability to open the book and runs to France with Matthew. From there she is kidnapped and tortured. Found at last by Matthew, they retreat to the Bishop family home. Diana is tested again, nearly dying to save Matthew’s life. Finally, they determine the only way to survive, and to find a witch powerful enough to teach her, is to go back in time.
I’ve read some of the other reviews and raised my eyebrow at the complaints about incongruities. I didn’t see any, although if you didn’t pay attention you may have missed some of the subtleties. Let’s look at a few examples: Diana’s inability to do magic and Matthew’s protective behavior.
Diana’s inability to do magic:
She insists that magic not pervade her life. She tries very hard not to do magic as she wants everything she does on her own intellectual merits than on something she was gifted with. However, she *is* magic and it seeps into everything she does. It seems that she can perform small feats of magic when she needs it, which turns out to be key.
Diana invites Matthew to dinner and, after reviewing his research, realizes he has an affinity for wolves. She knows he’s a vampire and has to make some assumptions about his eating habits. This is important, as the author makes it clear throughout the book that Matthew’s behavior is modeled on wolves. While he might be overbearing and protective, I think it’s mostly artistic license by the author (stretching the real wolf pack behavior and applying it to a mythical creature).
It was well crafted, but not lyrical. The pacing, as I mentioned, was quite good once past the fifth chapter. The serious amount of historical data that she included was incredible and was used well to emphasize Diana’s knowledge. The characters did not feel two-dimensional and they had flaws as well as gifts. I enjoyed that there was no sparkling going on.
It was definitely a different way to look at witchcraft and vampires. I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend it if you want to read urban fantasy but are more than tired of the worn-out cliches that abound today.