A Discovery of Witches is Paranormal Romance for Grown Ups
Deborah Harkness has done what I’ve wanted other paranormal authors to do… she’s taken vampires and witches and placed them in the center of a story for adults who appreciate a plot. A Discovery of Witches takes what has become the formula for paranormal romantic fiction -- boy vampire meets girl and violence ensues -- and turns it on its head with detailed history, magical revelations and a richly described world in which magic and humanity rarely mix.
In many ways, A Discovery of Witches reminds me of The The Da Vinci Code. There’s an ancient mystery, a society bent on keeping its secrets and an unlikely duo thrown together to prevent conflict. The scholarly aspect is there as well. Where The Da Vinci Code taught the history of the Crusades and Biblical theory, A Discovery of Witches takes on scientific theory, adds enticing tidbits from the Salem witch trials and sets much of the story within the walls of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.
Diana Bishop is a witch who has turned her back on witchcraft. Matthew Clairmont is a vampire. Together, they are seeking an ancient manuscript that holds the secrets of three types of magical creatures. Others are seeking the manuscript as well, and the group that ultimately controls the manuscript may have the power to control all magic. Sprinkled throughout with historical details from Matthew’s long life as a vampire and insights into magic that throws into question much of what has become ‘common knowledge’ of the paranormal, A Discovery of Witches kept me enthralled.
The book is a bit light on romance, if you’re used to the teen angst of Twilight or the more bawdy adventures common in today’s paranormal romance genre. But the sweetness of love is there, along with the possessiveness and the uncertainty that adds realism to the relationship between Diana and Matthew.
If I had to specify a negative, I would note that A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the All Souls trilogy. I don’t think Deborah Harkness can write fast enough to satisfy my curiosity about what happens in books two and three.