A Discovery of Witches is the wildly popular novel by Deborah Harkness. It’s got everything: witches, vampires, daemons, and scholarly puzzles that turn out to involve very complicated magical answers. Diana Bishop is a witch who wants to be a human. After the brutal deaths of her parents, she turns her back on her powers, choosing instead to become a historian. She requests a manuscript from the Bodleian stacks. Ashmole 782 is an alchemical manuscript that has been missing for over a hundred years. From the first moment, she knows—there is more to this book than meets the eye. This manuscript holds secrets that all magical beings want to know. She sends it back, but the brouhaha has already begun.
She finds that she’s being followed, and meets Matthew Clairmont, a vampire who is almost two thousand years old. Naturally, they fall in love. Naturally, there are magical beings who are against witches and vampires being together romantically. This book is, ultimately a romance novel. Ashmole 782 remains where it is, and becomes second string. This is the part of the book that doesn’t sit well with me, honestly. Matthew’s treatment of Diana raises all kinds of red flags. He’s overprotective, he hides important information from her, he demands that she follow his directives. And Diana falls for him, hook, line, and sinker. Her aunts point out—this is contrary to how she acted prior to meeting Matthew. Where she was, originally, very independent, Diana becomes fiercely co-dependent to the point where she almost dies. I realize that with two other books in the All Souls Trilogy, this may be addressed at a later point. My mother says that by the third novel, Diana returns to a more independent state, which I am looking forward to. I realize that many women find the idea of being in love with someone who protects and takes care of them as the dream, but this is not for me.
Despite the off-putting romance, I did enjoy parts of this book. I think that it’s an interesting take on magical realism, and it does have comforting, Rowling-esque flourishes. I am planning on reading the rest of the series. I love how witchy and wonderful Diana’s family is. Her aunts, Sarah and Em, are the best couple in the novel. The family home is haunted and can think for itself—I would totally live there if given the option, particularly as Bridget Bishop, Diana’s relative, shows up to help out.
Harkness, Deborah. A Discovery of Witches. New York: Viking. 2011. Print.
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