Publication Date: February 8th, 2011
Page Count: 592 (Hardcover)
From the Jacket:
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.
To say that I love this book to the point of obsession would be an understatement. With A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness wrote a book that felt like it was intended for me. It’s full of bad ass female characters, magic, books, history, libraries, witty flirtatious banter, sweet forbidden love, sexy devoted vampires, and just so much more.
As if I need to further my point, the very first scene of the book takes place in Oxford’s Bodleian library! Diana Bishop (as in the Bishops from the Salem Witch Trials) is conducting research when she unintentionally calls up a very old alchemical manuscript known as Ashmole 782, that has very clearly been bewitched. After losing her parents at the hands of other witches at a very young age, Diana has turned her back on her magic and lived a life as free from it and her powerful family as she can. It is because of this that she decides she wants nothing to do with the manuscript and sends it back to the stacks as quickly as she can. Completely unbeknownst to her however, Ashmole 782 has been missing for over a hundred years, and her short interaction with it sets off a domino effect that cannot be stopped.
It took me a few pages to really get into the story, but once I was in nothing could have stopped me from finishing. The action picks up quickly and never lets up, and the steady stream of mysterious new characters including vampires, daemons, and other witches was completely addicting.
After her unsettling interaction with the manuscript, it’s not long before Diana finds herself back in the stacks and face to face with Matthew Clairmont. Clairmont is a very old and very powerful and VERY DREAMY vampire who is initially drawn to her because he overhears that she has found Ashmole 782. However, after a few terse initial interactions, the two become inseparable while they work together to discover the mystery of the manuscript before it’s too late.
I will not get into too many plot details to avoid major spoilers, but I will discuss some of the stuff that I loved about this book. There are just so many things about it that worked for me, and basically nothing that didn’t. One of my favorite aspects are the settings Harkness creates. They are so vivid and rich in detail that I felt like I was there. I could smell London in the fall, and feel the crisp breeze when Diana was out rowing on the river. She adds so many cozy elements to her scenes like thick soft clothing, warm fires, and a seemingly endless supply of hot tea. Some of the most memorable parts of the book take place in Matthew’s tower rooms in his fortress in France. I never thought I would want to live in a fictional place more than the Gryffindor common room until I read this book. And speaking of Harry Potter vibes, the house where Diana’s aunts live is alive and very opinionated. It slams doors to get their attention and adds rooms when visitors are coming, it hides things it takes a fancy to and keeps other things safe until they are needed. It was like a giant, sassy room of requirement, and I loved everything about it.
A Discovery of Witches is also bursting at the seams with so much history. Matthew is old, like VERY old and Diana is a historian. The conversations they have about historical figures and events and the books that Matthew has in his personal collection made all my nerdy parts sing with joy. The action and magic and romance would have been enough to draw me in and keep me hooked, but these extra details made this book something more for me. And speaking of romance, I am complete Diana and Matthew trash and will ship them until I die.
(This is from the TV show because apparently there is a TV show and I need to watch it IMMEDIATELY!)
Another thing Harkness mastered in this book, was her creation of well imagined and dynamic characters. They are realistic, relatable, and memorable and she does a phenomenal job explaining their personalities and personal motivations. I fell in love quickly with Diana and Matthew, but also with Ysabeau, Marthe, Hamish, Sarah and Emily. In the wrong hands, such a large cast of characters introduced so quickly could have fallen flat, but she builds each one up expertly and even her minor characters have depth. Additional characters are weaved into the plot up until the very end of the book, and I felt as engaged with the newcomers as I did with the rest.
I could go on and on and on about this book and how much I loved it, but mostly I just want to go start the next one! I hope you will read this series and come chat with me about it. If you’ve already read it, please let me know. I’m running out of people to flail with and could really use your emotional support.