A Discovery of Witches is Not Your Average Vampire Novel

BlogHer Review

When I received my copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, I did what I always do when I discover a new book -- I searched online for reviews. The first several reviews I read likened it to a “Twilight for adults” which, I admit, caused a bit of trepidation. The genre is not one of my typical favorites.

A Discovery of Witches was a pleasant surprise for the genre. Other than the male lead being a vampire and a bit of romance between the lead characters, I found the similarities stopped there. The crux of the novel is the supernatural mystery of Ashmole 782, an ancient manuscript that holds secrets not yet discovered.

The protagonist, Diana Bishop, is a researcher who discovers the document while at Oxford, while Matthew Clairmont, the male lead, is a geneticist also pursuing his own research. Of course, Diana is no ordinary researcher. She is a witch, descended from a powerful family of witches, yet in denial of her powers and has refused to use them. Matthew too is not an average geneticist, he is a 1500 year old vampire who once worked with Darwin and also is deeply interested in the contents of Ashmole 782.

The quest to find the meaning of the manuscript, the history behind it all, and their own roles take Diana and Matthew through a long history based in real-world places and events. It is this aspect, the intertwining of the fictional manuscript with actual historical places, that sets this novel apart and makes it much more than the aforementioned “Twilight for adults”. The element of history and mystery was not something I was expecting, and the likeliness of a sequel, based on the questions left at the end of the novel, has me looking forward to Harkness’ next novel!

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