A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness

A vampire over a millennia old, a spellbound yet powerful witch and a mysterious, bewitched manuscript unearthed after being hidden for decades -what could go wrong?

A captivating world created by Harkness, Diana Bishop is a descendant of the prominent Bishop witches but is in denial about who and what she is. She refrains from using magic as much as possible and lives her life as a normal human. As she calls up more manuscripts for her research, a mysterious alchemical manuscript that has been hidden for centuries falls into her hands. With news of this rippling through the world of witches, vampires and daemons, they soon they descend on every part of Diana’s life; in hopes of getting the manuscript for themselves. One of these creatures is Matthew de Claremont, the captivating and enigmatic vampire who is over a millennia old. In his quest for the manuscript, he veers off track and instead tries to keep her safe from other creatures which soon flourishes into much more. This partnership doesn’t fare well in their fantastical world and that’s without Diana even dealing with the mystery of the manuscript.

While I liked the sound of this book and did want to read it at some point, I was completely taken by surprise at how much I enjoyed it. There were so many strong themes throughout it; betrayal, drama, danger, desire, romance, fantasy -or I should say dark fantasy. It had a real feel of dark academia to me. As I said to my boyfriend, it felt like Twilight but way more supernatural and there was a hint of His Dark Materials to it too.

‘Black hats, bats, brooms’. It was the unholy trinity of witchcraft lore, which bursts into spectacular, ridiculous life every year on Halloween

p. 169

I really enjoyed this read. Despite the size of this book –my edition is 688 pages– I actually found this to be a quick read I will say that the pacing was a bit off in areas. In hindsight, it probably could be shortened and edited better for a faster pace but I do wonder if it needed those chapters of background detail to allow the space for characters to breathe and become acquainted with one another. I also hope a lot of the first book was simply setting the stage for the second -which I’m just about to crack open.

That being said, I do think the plot line holds your interest through these pacing issues. I definitely felt the suspense in areas and couldn’t put the book down; in some areas of the book I found the storytelling quite addictive. I also really loved the conflict and dynamics between characters. Especially the elements of the fantasy world and how the different species all come together in alternative ways. Because of the nature of the vampires being immortal, there was a melding between the history of humans and magical events that added a whole new layer to the storytelling.

On the whole, I would definitely recommend this to any fantasy-fiction book enthusiast. I’d say it’s the perfect read for this time of year. There’s such a warmth and nostalgia to this story, especially from the time of year it is set and the academia elements too. I’m really looking forward to delving into the second book; if anyone has read this first book or the entire trilogy; do get in touch! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cheerio for now!

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