Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches
All Souls Trilogy #1
Deborah Harkness
Genre: Paranormal
A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. 

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.
Instant attraction. Slow-burn romance.

Reading A Discovery of Witches made me think of a question I posed in one of my YA book reviews: What do you know about true love at 16? All sixteen-year-olds out there who are “in love” would vehemently defend their feelings and assure me their depths. I would have when I was at that age. I thought I knew everything. But Diana and Matthew’s love and romance, the way it developed, it withstood tests of trust and honesty, it solidified. That was true. 

Romance with vampires was always thought to be fraught with danger, excitement and all the action and intensity extracted from it being dark and forbidden. You would feel the urgency, the fast-track, non-stop motion, giving you a whiplash. But the courtship between Matthew and Diana was a slow-burn romance, a discovery, of finding and learning about each other. There were no grand gestures, just random occurrences that happened and everything just fell into place. The I love yous, that signal to me that “love and togetherness” officially commenced, were said just weeks after they met. I would’ve cried foul and shouted Instalove! before but not this time because it was done right and at the right point in time. 

Matthew Clairmont. Sparkly?

Some reviews mentioned about it being similar to Twilight especially the character of Matthew Clairmont with that of Edward Cullen. There was a point where I was afraid it was so but it was so fleeting, so infinitesimal that it was negligible. Whereas they both were brooding, overprotective vampires, Matthew showed the wisdom, the strength, the intelligence, the maturity and the good sense that comes with living for so long. Edward, on the other hand, remained a teenager masquerading as 105-year-old vampire. 

With great power comes great trial.

Was Diana a Mary Sue because she had all these powers and could use them instinctually? No, because I took into account that she’s the scion of two powerful parents and she’s an intelligent woman (thank goodness). Rather, I’m looking at this as part of her coming into terms with who she is and I bet that this seemingly being superpowered will be a source of trial. It started already. 

My love of history.

What I love most about A Discovery of Witches is the complete and utter utilization of history that is rooted in archival evidence and anecdotal accounts. I drooled at the comprehensive and exhaustive research done to make it more believable, more real. Oh my goodness, that detailed history. I was with Diana when she was uncovering, bit by bit, her legacy, her heritage. I wandered the halls of Oxford and trailed my fingers along the spines of the books. 

Fangirling.

How do you express the feelings you have once you finished a magnificent book? How do you measure the depth of story and character development that spanned this book? How do you convey the satisfaction with how the romance once handled? How do you demonstrate your excitement to read the next book? 

By doing a lot, and potentially embarrassing, fangirling.
Ayanami Faerudo

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