Friday, August 27, 2021

A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

Title: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, Book 1)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Penguin, 2011 (Paperback)
Length: 579 pages
Genre: Adult; Fantasy
Started: August 12, 2021
Finished: August 20, 2021

From the back cover:

Deep in the heart of Oxford's Bodleian Library, Diana Bishop - a young scholar and the descendant of witches - unearths an enchanted alchemical manuscript. Wanting nothing to do with sorcery, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery has set a fantastical underworld stirring, and soon a horde of daemons, witches, and other creatures descends upon the library. Among them is Matthew Clairmont, a vampire with a keen interest in the book. Equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense, A Discovery of Witches is a mesmerizing and addictive tale of passion and obsession that reveals the closely guarded secrets of an enchanted world. 

Yeah, I know, I'm a little late to the party on this book, and no, I didn't pick this up because of the show (although now post-read I definitely want to watch it). I'm glad this recommendation came my way, it's a great fantasy read set in the modern world (at least this first instalment is) that appeals to the academic in me. 

Dr. Diana Bishop is the last of the Bishop witches, raised in New England and working as a science historian at Oxford. This is a world where creatures (vampires, witches, daemons) exist alongside humans, but humans aren't aware of their existence. Diana knows the rule: one group can't associate with the other or risk attracting attention; so when she unknowingly unlocks a secret tome that's been sought after for centuries, her safety is in jeopardy when all manner of creatures start stalking her, including Matthew Clairmont. Matthew and Diana then become embroiled in the mystery of the book and how it affects both their futures. 

Again, the academic setting of this novel appeals to me. There were so many points where Diana would do or say something very stereotypically academic and I'd be laughing in sympathy, she's a character after my own heart. Plus, the idea of a person bonding with an ancient creature over their shared scholarship in an ancient library (especially when said creature has first-hand experiences contrasted with the person's second-hand accounts) is probably the most nerdy meet-cute ever. The characters are well-developed and the pacing and world building are well-done too. 

If you're a fantasy reader who likes a bit more academia and romance in your stories, give this series a try. There are two subsequent instalments which I have in my TBR pile that I hope are just as good as the first.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the old-school celestial and astrological symbols with Oxford buildings lining the bottom of the image. The other covers in the series are done in a similar style, and I always appreciate continuity in series covers. 

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