Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

DH book pic

A Discovery of Witches is a historical fiction written by historical writer, wine enthusiast and University of Southern California instructor Deborah Harkness. The trilogy is about Diana Bishop, a witch in denial about who she is, and a 1500-year-old vampire known by the name of Mathew Clairmont. These two character’s worlds collide when Bishop innocently comes across an old “missing” manuscript that many creatures have spent their entire lives in search of.

Harness’ writing first drew me in when I came across her novel in an airport store. Which also happens to be how her novel got started and continued to gain popularity. Once I started reading I couldn’t bring myself to put her book down and when the last page was complete I immediately jumped on my computer to research whether she was ever going to write a follow up book to aid in my need to resolution. To my relief she was already working on the planned trilogy.

The thing that really captures me about her fictional trilogy is the amount of detail Harkness puts into her stories, while keeping the whole world of the story in line with possible historical moments in history. She moves the story along at a relentless pace, for the first book of the trilogy, as we learn about each character and the locations. Of which she shares their stories, within the novel’s story, also adding to the realistic feel of the fantasy.

While her trilogy is purely a fictional book Harkness uses elements of real historical people; knowledge from her studies of alchemy, historical science and medicine; the occult and of places she’s been. The combination of these elements make reading A Discovery of Witches feel like Harnkess’ descriptions are almost second nature for her and easy for the reader’s imagination to splurge.

The Bodleian Library, for example, is where Harkness worked while she went to Oxford and the book in the novel, Ashmole 782, is a real lost alchemy book that was written by Elisa Ashmole.

I have always liked fiction novels but the way that Harkness has tied all these actual facts, historical events, locations and un-explained historical theories into a world all its own is absolutely fascinating. The fact that she is a legitimate and renowned historian who has traveled and studied the places she describes makes it that much more enveloping to read.

The trilogy that goes by the name of All Souls is currently in development with the BBC to adapt the trilogy for television.

If you have read this book or a book similar to this book please share your thoughts!


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