Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: "A Discovery of Witches"

"A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness
First book in the All Souls trilogy
First published in 2011
579 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5

(image source)

It only took a few pages for me to discover that "A Discovery of Witches" would be the best book I've read this year; it's a perfectly written story of the supernatural, history, science, romance and suspense.

 Diana Bishop is a renowned historian who also happens to be a witch -- but she refuses to use her talents and downplays her witchy identity as much as possible, despite descending from one of the most famous witch families in history. She's researching alchemical texts at Oxford University's Bodleian Library when she encounters Ashmole 782, a strange old leatherbound manuscript that she can instantly tell is bound up in magic. She knows the book holds secrets that she can access if she uses her skills to retrieve them, but she refuses to let magic interfere with her work and simply makes a few notes about the manuscript before sending it back to the library stacks.

The next day, a multitude of creatures descend on the Bodleian -- other witches, vampires and daemons -- all drawn to the magic of the mysterious manuscript, which turns out to be highly sought-after by powerful creatures. One of the new visitors to the library is a 1500-year-old vampire named Matthew Clairmont, who has a special interest in Diana and Ashmole 782. The powers and events Diana inadvertently released by calling up the manuscript will change her life -- and Matthew's -- forever, and force her to come to terms with her abilities and her identity as a witch.

Deborah Harkness' writing is superb -- the book is a masterfully crafted epic that encompasses not only a magical world but centuries of history, alchemy, science and genetics. Harkness must truly be a Renaissance woman -- she writes with confidence on everything from military brotherhoods of the Crusades to yoga to wine to the mystical.

The second book in the All Souls trilogy, "Shadow of Night" came out this summer and I'll be reading it soon. I saw that, like every good book nowadays, "A Discovery of Witches" is set to become a movie. That's one I'll definitely go see!

Happy reading!

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