Sometimes, you just can’t find that awesome book that fulfills your need for witchy fun, fantasy, romance and a dash of deadly adventure. The Harry Potter series ended (well, at least for the moment, but there are more coming in the future) and now the books you grew up with and read dozens of times need a friend on the bookshelf. Let me tell you about the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness and its first book, A Discovery of Witches. These have been some of my favorite books in recent years and have found a happy home on my bookshelf with other amazing stories of magic, love and bravery.
Allow me to introduce to the female protagonist of this story: Diana Bishop. She is a historian studying at Oxford’s Bodleian Library when her life is turned upside down by the discovery of an ancient tome on alchemy known as Ashmore 782. Despite being descended from a long line of prestigious witches, Diana has chosen to do things the traditional way for humans, opting out of any magical shortcuts save for a few spells here and there. Not that she was ever very good at magic anyway; most of her spells backfired or came out wrong. She is a strong-willed, intelligent woman who knows what she wants and is willing to work to get it. Which makes the male protagonist all the more insufferable to her.
Matthew Clairmont is a self-assured, perhaps slightly cocky geneticist at Oxford that has taken a keen interest in Diana. She is utterly put off by his charms and his insistence that he’s simply protecting her from things she may not yet be aware of. She politely, and often impolitely, tells him to take a hike. Ohh, and did I mention he’s a vampire? A vampire that is centuries old and thankfully is not interested in roaming high schools for a mate or glittering like a Lisa Frank sticker book in sun. No, Matthew Clairmont is a man who sets his mind to something and sees it through.
However, when it becomes apparent to Diana that she might suffer the same fate as her parents, tragically killed when she was just seven years old, she begins to have a change of heart and at least tries to forge a working friendship with this handsome rogue who has taken up the mantle of her protection, whether she likes it or not. Creatures of all kinds are after Ashmore 782, and Diana seems to be the only one who has seen it in a long, long time.
Overall the book is a nail-biting adventure full of realistic portrayals of people and their relationships despite the fact that some of them drink blood to stay alive and others soar through the skies on magical powers alone. There is no “perfect” character who never makes poor choices or the wrong move. The villains are thoroughly hated without being shallow, mustache-twirling caricatures. No Mary Sue people allowed within these pages.
I think that’s what I enjoyed most about the book: everyone seemed like real people with genuine reactions to things (most of the time). There was no awkwardly ham-fisted scenes of romance or passion where they didn’t belong, nor foolish bouts of stupid bravery that weren’t scolded. You raced through the adventure with them, and I found myself unable to put the book down once I got started. It’s definitely a book for people who grew up with loving fantasy adventures that made sense and kept you on the edge of your seat the whole ride.
This book gets my stamp of approval and 4 out of 5 cauldrons!