A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.
When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…
A Discovery of Witches follows Dr. Diana Bishop, a descendant of the Bishop witches of Salem. After her parents were killed a child, Diana turned her back on her natural powers and instead focused on her academics becoming a Historian of alchemical texts. In this book we follow Diana as she recovers Ashmole 782, a book pursued by witches, daemons and vampires. One vampire in particular who won’t seem to leave her alone is Matthew Clairmont. A Discovery of Witches is the journey Diana goes on to discover the secrets of Ashmole 782 and why it is coveted by so many.
The plot of A Discovery of Witches is truly interesting, the historical elements mixed with fantasy and paranormal aspects truly work well together. However, this book is largely overly descriptive and it felt way to long, in fact I felt like it could have been cut down a fair bit. In some cases the descriptive nature of Harkness’ writing is worth it as she describes the world and the history associated with it, however other times it truly is not necessary. There was a lot of description on wine flavours and tea, food and even vampire yoga. Did we really need to know every little detail of the meal shared between Diana and Matthew? Frankly No.
One thing I did love was Deborah Harkness’ use of her own historical background to support the storyline and develop the history of A Discover of Witches. The references to historical figures and theories such as Charles Darwin and his theory of Evolution was really interesting, especially as we were able to hear Matthews own experiences of these events and how they fit into his Vampire life.
Another thing which I liked about the story which others do not, is the romance element. For me I need to have some sort of romance in a fantasy. For many this is a typical insta-love romance and I can see why, but Matthew and Diana’s romance slowly develops through the book and it is somewhat a doomed fate. Could a witch and a vampire truly work?
There are numerous settings to A Discovery of Witches, starting with the United Kingdom and Oxford University where Diana meets Matthew Clairmont as its pursued by a number of supernatural beings including other witches, vampires and daemons. This was by far by favourite setting, I loved the description of the Bodlein Library and the history behind it.
We also experience France and Sept- Tours. Matthews home where we are introduced to his family and more of his history. This is another favourite setting of mine as it is where the story truly develops and becomes more gripping. A lot of the action and history develops here and we can really see the pace of the story begin to pick up.
The final setting we experience is in U.S.A and the Bishop House as Diana returns home to her family. This is a nice setting as here we are able to experience Diana’s home, her childhood and her family. We learn more about her childhood and her struggles with magic. It is also the base of her planning to where her and Matthew must go next for answers.
Overall, A Discovery of Magic was a 3 star read for me. There are aspects to the book which I loved, the magic and witches, the history and the journey Diana must go on but a lot of that was clouded for me by the overly descriptive nature. I very nearly gave up and I’m glad I didn’t as the story does pick up pace towards the second half but you do need to persevere. I definitely will continue this series to find out the secrets Ashmole 782 hold.