A Discovery of Witches Gives New Blood to Tried and True Tales

BlogHer Review

It's easy to understand why the world can't get enough witches and vampires.

Even after an infamous seven-part series called Harry Potter, and a rather cult-classic Twilight , Deborah Harkness brings something new to the fantasy table with the first book in her All Souls three-part series.

A Discovery of Witches breaks most of the molds already set in place within the last few years by novels about witches, vampires, and those “creatures” holding magical powers that leave us humans spell-bound.

A bit hesitant to delve into the novel – after all, where could Harkness take us where Sookie Stackhouse hadn't already gone? – I found myself, about a fifth of the way in, mesmerized.

Reading more like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, complete with historical anecdotes and puzzles left to be solved, A Discovery of Witches takes readers into the life of a reluctant witch who also happens to be a prodigious historian, Diana Bishop.

Before long, though, she is wrapped up in a world with other “creatures” just like her –- other witches, yes, but also daemons and vampires, one of whom she falls in love with, breaking centuries of rules about cross-creature relationships and taboos.

Soon, Diana must leave her life of latent magic behind and accept who she really is –- a very powerful witch with a very real problem: the love of her life, vampire Matthew Clairmont, is in danger just as much as he is dangerous.

She must choose sides in an age-old battle between creatures, and, in essence, start a war –- a war that draws parallels between recent historical events like the Civil Rights Movement, even though the book's historical references are much older.

The novel was slow to start, though the author's attention to detail seems necessary, as she's setting readers up for a trilogy – a trilogy that will follow Diana and Matthew through many different eras and times, where they will learn about their magical powers and fight for their right to be a blended couple.

A bit of space and time could have been saved if Harkness hadn't harped on the romantic relationship between Diana and Matthew time and time again in the second half of the book.

Honestly, the average reader easily grasped the passion between the two protagonists, and unless the author was purposely trying to appeal to those adolescent readers who ate up the Twilight series because of the gushy romance between Edward and Bella, the rest of her audience got a bit bored with the pages devoted to describing Diana and Matthew's rushed, passionate embraces and kisses.

The gripping parts of the book revolved around history – how events like the Salem Witch Trials set up witches current power structure – and puzzles yet to be solved –- how vampires, daemons, and witches protected their own through age-old institutions like the Knights of Templar and the Congregation.

The novel does leave readers hanging, though. After all, they need an incentive to read the next book of the All Souls series.

However, it also leaves them with a bit of a let-down. The characters and the setting are so good –- and so different from other witch-vampire series –- that you end up yearning to know what happens at the end of it all.

You want to know how Diana and Matthew –- and their ever-growing posse of supporting witches, vampires, and daemons -- evolve, develop, and hopefully, survive.

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