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Monica Valentinelli

A Discovery of Witches Review

Posted on September 6, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli


Available at Amazon.com

    A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy and was written by Deborah Harkness. The premise is centered upon Diana Bishop, a historian with a secret past, who stumbles upon an ancient text that is *also* a palimpset. After her accidental discovery of Ashmole 782, Diana’s life begins to change — and not necessarily for the better.

    What drew me to this story was the promise of mysteries and ancient texts. I immediately identified with Diana and her more rational side and, as the book’s secrets took a strange turn, felt even more drawn into the story. Enter Matthew Clairmont, an ancient vampire with a long history and many secrets of his own. With his introduction, the story turned to romance and the mystery of Ashmole 782 and why it was so important stepped into the background as Diana got swept up into a relationship and a world she turned her back on.

    As I was reading this, I got a sense that paranormal romance stories steeped in forbidden romance greatly inspired this trilogy. Since those books are not my usual fare, I was surprised at the amount of attention spent on the world-and-relationship building between the two characters. There are a lot of sensory details in the book that pull out historical elements and modern-day luxuries like food, wine, sports, architecture, cars, etc. and I appreciated the amount of research required to weave them into the plot. This technique wound up shifting my attention from the secret of the book to the relationship itself. Once it was revealed that the characters were “meant to be” together, I found myself wondering if there was something else going on, something more sinister that Diana hadn’t quite grasped yet. Diana became more emotional as the story progressed and I found myself identifying with other characters as a result. To Harkness’s credit, there was a plot-driven reason for her behavior, but the immersion into her perspective made me cringe at times when her emotions overcame not only her rationale, but everything she had accomplished in her adult life, too.

    Written in the first-person narrative, the perspectives themselves are flawless and you get a full range of character depictions for Matthew and Diana from multiple characters. You’ll find no mechanical clunky bits in this tome. Part-historical romance, part-urban fantasy, A Discovery of Witches has a lot of the same elements you might find in a dreamier, more contemporary adult version of Twilight — only “Bella” is an all-powerful witch who hasn’t yet tapped into her powers.

    I feel that those who enjoy a more romantic and atmospheric style of paranormal romance will greatly enjoy this 579 page tome. If you’re like me, and you love the concept of ancient alchemical texts hiding secrets, you may want to wait until you read the synopsis for Book Two of the series titled Shadow of Night before deciding whether or not you want to dive in. In my mind, A Discovery of Witches is clearly about the developing romance between Matthew and Diana and the forces that want to tear them apart or push them together for all eternity. The book is important, yes, but not as crucial as the couple it affects.

    Review by Monica Valentinelli


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      One Response to “A Discovery of Witches Review”

      1. Tracy Tracy says:

        Great review… and sure wish I’d seen it before I read the book last year. I found the romance a little heavy-handed and I’m kind of tired of women meeting their “destiny” in the paranormal books these days. Sigh.

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