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Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is the first novel in the All Souls Trilogy. The protagonist, Diana Bishop, comes from a long line of witches. Her lineage traces back to Salem and beyond. However, she refuses to use her inherited magic. After all, that’s what got her parents killed.

Diana works as an academic, and her current research on alchemy has her delving into the ancient manuscripts at Bodleian Library in Oxford. Unfortunately for Diana, one of these is the Ashmole 782, an ancient text that causes the netherworld of vampires, witches and daemons to snap to attention.

Diana becomes ensnared in a centuries old feud between the not so mystical beings. She has no choice but to embrace her witching powers as Oxford employs a number of witches, vampires, and daemons. They form quite a nasty crowd, and all of them want access to the Ashmole 782. In particular, geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont wants it, and maybe her as well.

Diana and Matthew soon find they share a number of common interests. The reader gets treated to a food and wine feast throughout the book as the main characters sort themselves out. Diana and Matthew share a strong chemical attraction for each other. They must determine if it is similar to the relationship between a mongoose and a viper or is it more like Romeo and Juliet? To gain time, they flee from England to Europe, and then to upper New York. As the story ends, they travel backwards in time.

The second book in the Trilogy, Shadow of the Night is scheduled for release in July 2012. The main characters return to Elizabethan London so Diana can polish her witches’ skills from some of the greatest witch and warlock masters of all time. Being a vampire, Matthew already lived through this era once, and he must deal with some enemies from his past.

Harkness hails from the burbs of Philly. She’s also lived in Chicago, upstate New York, and both Northern and Southern California. She loves to drink her wine and write about it too. She is a fellow blogger, and even though she can probably afford wallet tingling wine, her blog provides witches wanting affordable wine some recommendations.

She spent many years, working, studying and doing research in London and Europe, but mostly Oxford. Harkness has worked at many famous libraries including the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Who better to write about the inner workings of this esteemed depository of books.

Besides her writing, she currently pesters the minds of young scholars at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her courses cover European history as well as the history of science. This is probably a good thing, since she manages to keep the science of genetics in A Discovery of Witches in terms we can all understand. She also provides the reader with good science unlike some television shows.

Harkness incorporates her knowledge and experience into writing A Discovery of Witches. As a result, the story flows smoothly and provides great entertainment. She began this endeavor to answer the question, if there really are vampires, what do they do for a living? Enjoy reading the book, and discovering the answer.

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About Bruce G. Smith

I'm a part time writer with a few articles published here and there. In addition to writing, I'm into nature and architectural photography.
  • This book is written for an adult audience–wine, alchemy, genetics, and the world of
    the supernatural all combine to put you on the edge of your seat. The novel is long–almost 600 pages, but the story flows along quite nicely, building into an incredible ending. Can Diana tap into her powerful magical abilities in time to save herself and Matthew? Can a vampire and witch break an ancient taboo and be together?

  • Hi Ceska, you are correct. A Discovery of Witches is a well written, and suspenseful story that will interest readers looking for a little depth in the story. The second book will be coming out soon, and I can’t wait.