Title: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls #1)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Summary: [from GoodReads]
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Wow! I totally did not expect this book. I knew very little about it going in, other than it was a big-seller fantasy. I was half expecting it to be another Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – a good book, but near impossible to get through. Instead I found myself swept away in a remarkably intricate paranormal romance that left me desperate for more!
The first thing that caught my attention was the amount of detail involved in creating the world. I’m not that familiar with ancient texts on alchemy but the way she described them made me really believe the ones she was describing exist. I can’t imagine the amount of research that would have to be done to even consider writing a book like this, but Harkness must have done it, that or she’s a really good emulator – I believed it the whole way!
I also loved the way Harkness chose to present Diana. A lot of paranormals focus on “I’m magic and I had NO CLUE.” (probably as a result of Harry Potter, but that’s a discussion for another time.) Diana, on the other hand, knows exactly what she is and is avoiding it – for some pretty decent reasons too! Later we find out we still have some discovering to do too (Diana is SPECIAL) so we really have a blending of methods that is refreshing and new.
And then, of course, there’s Matthew. He’s dreamy and sweet, a little (okay A LOT) overprotective and mysterious, but so perfect for Diana. Plus, I love that once she proves she can take care of herself he totally backs off on the overprotectiveness and their relationship becomes more of a partnership. I get so tired of book boys who assume girls are helpless no matter the evidence to the contrary.
I’m very excited to pick up the next book soon and see where she goes with this – the possibilities are endless!