A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Review by Jarad Johnson
This book is absolutely wonderful and I need to start by acknowledging that fact. I say that because this book surprised me in the best way possible. I expected the fantasy elements and the steamy vampire, but I did not expect the beautiful and descriptive writing, the extremely creative world-building, or the rapid and well thought out progression of the plot. It was a book I had heard about before, but for some reason did not have high hopes for. Needless to say, I was blown away, and I cannot wait for the sequel.
The plot begins with a thirty something year old scholar named Diana Bishop requesting manuscript called Ashmole 782 in the course of her research at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. When Diana begins to see signs of magic in the book, she takes a few cursory notes on the curious images and sends it back, because, although she is descended from an extraordinarily powerful line of witches, she herself wants nothing to do with magic. However, she doesn’t know that this particular tome has been lost for centuries, and has set the magical underworld abuzz with its sudden appearance. And soon after, a distracting bunch of vampires, daemons, and witches descends on the library. One of these creatures is Matthew Clairmont, an eminent geneticist, yoga enthusiast, and wine connoisseur. He’s also a 1500-year-old vampire with an especially keen interest in Ashmole 782.
This book is equal parts history, romance, magic and suspense, and doesn’t fit onto any specific genre. It is a novel set on a grand scale, of epic scope and imagination. It spans the dusty libraries of Oxford all the way to the elegant Chateaus of France. It also takes the reader back in time, with a rich history that covers the Crusades, the Knights Templar, and the American Revolution. Moreover, as Matthew and Diana’s relationship deepens, she must confront her own family’s sordid history, and face the bigotry of socially ingrained taboos, and she must reconcile being a modern woman with her ancient lineage.
As much as I adore this book, I did have an issue with it. When Matthew and Diana become closer than expected, he takes a bit of a possessive role. In the book this is explained as common vampire nature; and while, in the end, they do work it out and become even closer, it is a little cringeworthy at times. However, that issue does not really take too much away from the book.
I truly could talk about this book for pages and pages, and I still could not say enough about it. I loved every single character in this book (especially Matthew), mostly because they were so well written, even the villians and side characters were not superfluous to the plot, but on the contrary added to it. It’s a brilliant read for fans of the fantasy genre.
Jarad attends Fayetteville High School, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad wants to be an English major. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!