A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.
Oh I do hope this review will arrive when the sun is shining. My horse is moulting like crazy, creating mini tribbles every time I groom her, and I’ve got a hankering for chick-lit set in exotic locations, so surely spring must be on its way???
Anyway, enough wishful thinking, I have views to impart! Views on a book that has been called ‘the new Twilight’, and featured heavily in the Sunday Times Bestsellers list. A Discovery of Witches is the first in the story of Diana, a history academic based at Oxford university, who is also a witch that does not want, and seemingly does not use, her powers. This book is classic Urban Fantasy, with witches, daemons and vampires existing as unobtrusively as possible in our modern-day world. All of these creatures feature heavily throughout A Discovery of Witches, but it is an ancient, tall and handsome vampire, that enters Diana’s life, and turns her quiet existence totally upside down.
The premise seemed promising, as I quite enjoyed the (earlier) Twilight books, and I loved the fact it was set in Oxford. Indeed, Oxford is lovingly and intimately described, and I could virtually smell the books of the Bodleian Library. Even the 600-plus pages didn’t put me off at first, that is, until I got into the book. I felt that it really, REALLY, didn’t need to be that long. In fact, I reckon I could have edited it down to half the size, and you wouldn’t have known. Deborah Harkness is obviously a good writer, so I was totally at a loss to understand why she labored so many points – yes, I get that Matthew is pale, yes, I get that he is tall, yes, I get that he is fiercely protective of Diana, so why mention them, hmmm, every other page? The pace of the novel is so slow that the action/emotional scenes lack any real punch, as I had lost all drive by the time I got to them.
I also never really warmed to Diana, or indeed Matthew (which, considering my predilection for tall, dark, slightly dangerous men, is very unusual!). Diana is stupidly stubborn, annoyingly invasive of other’s privacy, and has a very frustrating tendancy to swoon and require Matthew to carry her around. There were side characters that grabbed my interest – the brooding, Scottish politician Hamish and the touched-by-madness pregnant daemon Sophie in particular – but they do not feature enough to drag my emotions concerning the cast list beyond lukewarm. I do admit to loving Diana’s family home though, a house that adds rooms when unexpected guests arrive, hides secrets, and expels those it doesn’t like.
Overall, unfortunately in A Discovery of Witches I found a book that didn’t, for me, live up to the hype. A beautiful, lavishly described setting did not make up for pedestrian pacing, and some intriguing cast members (and house) could not fill the void left by indifferent leads. I was left with no desire to read the sequel, and therefore cannot score the book more than 5 out of 10.