Book Review – A Discovery Of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness

First published, 2011

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I recently bought the first series of A Discovery of Witches on DVD and have been very good in not watching it.

There have been plenty of occasions where I’ve watched the series/film and then gone in search of the book and it always feels like I’ve got that the wrong way round. Frankly, I want to be one of those people who knows the book intimately before it appears on screens of various sizes. I like a good story. I don’t really care where I find it, but it feels like there’s only so much that can be covered on the screen and I’d like to get to know those little details before I can claim to miss them.

Anyway, having stumbled across the DVD of A Discovery of Witches (because I only need to hear the name Alex Kingston before I open my wallet), I scoured the internet for the book. I didn’t need to scour for long because the book is enormous and hard to miss. Not as huge as The Count of Monte Cristo but A Discovery of Witches could also be used as a weapon.

So, the story follows repressed witch and Oxbridge academic, Diana: the daughter of murdered parents, Diana has been raised by her aunt, Sarah, and her partner, Em. Having moved to a bookish life, Diana is alchemical expert. She rarely uses her witchy powers but all that is about to change when she accidentally calls up a book from the bowels of the Bodleian library which hasn’t been seen in an age. And she’s not alone in her fascination. Indeed, all the witches, vampires and daemons in the locality are stunned by her sudden, inexplicable access to the mighty tome and they want in on it.

Having found herself a source of interest, bordering on obsession, with a whole host of beings, Diana finds solace and security in the deep and foreboding presence of Matthew – a centuries old vampire with a murky and extensive past. But as their relationship moves into something more romantic, could they fall foul of a treaty made before Diana was born, and will they be allowed their happily ever after? And what will Sarah have to say about it?

See, and this is my problem: an otherwise smart woman with her own thoughts and opinions, is catapulted into the spotlight and finds herself totally reliant on a man who demands her blind obedience. (Shudder) She spends a good chunk of the novel trying to talk Matthew into bed and he insists they take their time about it – even though time travel is a thing. Whether he’s not that interested or she’s too needy, I couldn’t say, but I (and it might just be me) found their developing touchy-feeliness creepy and a bit cringe. Matthew’s too controlling and I don’t want Diana to be quite so desperate. Also, given that her aunts raised her from the age of seven, Diana is remarkably rude to them and seems to expect them to just deal with whatever she throws at them, and for a character who becomes so dependant on another person, I expect her to show more gratitude.

It’s a very intelligently written book but I didn’t like her, and I failed to see what she saw in him.