A Discovery of Witches


Stephanie Canto, Crier Staff

The adult contemporary fiction genre has long been missing a well-written and compelling fantasy series such as this. Deborah Harkness, who studied history and the history of magic and science throughout college, incorporates her studies into a wonderful debut novel with alchemy, vampires, and daemons that entices readers from the first page.

A Discovery of Witches follows a young scholar, Diana Bishop, who unknowingly uncovers an enchanted manuscript in the depths of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Diana comes from a long line of witches, but has spent her life fighting against her urge to use magic due to the involvement of her parents’ death. Until this day, she has been successful, but now she will not be able to hide who she is.

The stirring of this manuscript brings vampires, witches, and daemons from all over the world who want to get their hands on this book. Also known as Ashmole 782, it is said to hold the answers of the originals of the supernatural, and they will hunt Diana down to find it. One of these seekers includes the millennia old vampire, Matthew de Clairmont, who develops an attraction to Diana. Together, they set out to find the manuscript again, but it may be harder than it seems.

Now, what separates this book from all the other fantasy series out on the market? To put it simply, it’s extreme depth.

Every sentence is crafted, every bit of information was thought through to the smallest detail, which is what makes this book so incredible to read. The sentence structures give us the perfect amount of detail that we can immerse ourselves in the world without things droning on. This book, though considered a paranormal fantasy, brings together academic subjects like science and alchemy, and weaves it in with an abundance of history.

Not only do you learn a lot from the content, but the book hooks you into every scene, making it the perfect atmospheric read for the fall. The first time I read it, I was curled up on the couch watching the leaves fall from the trees, drinking a cup of tea. As it takes place on the campus of Oxford University, college students can really be engrossed in the magic and lore of witchcraft set in the modern world.

However, it’s not your typical fantasy world. Everything in the story is developed from historical “evidence” on the existence of vampires and the like. This, which you can clearly see throughout the novel, is what really sets it apart from other fantasy stories. This world was not just thought-up, it was researched and planned until all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. That is to say, the history matched the world building.

Another excellent quality of this book is that it’s not a fantasy series that relies strictly on the romance aspect to move it along. As she gets engrossed with this whole other world in front of her, it makes her question her decision to abstain from magic, and whether or not she has the courage to continue this journey of self-discovery. Even the content within Ashmole 782 brings up themes relating to the meaning of life itself.

I would recommend this book for people who are fans of Harry Potter, but are looking for other genres mixed in as well such as science, philosophy, and history. If you want to get more in depth with the world in A Discovery of Witches, a live read along starts Sept. 18th! Go to www.deborahharkness.com and look at the dates to read the story of Diana and Ashmole 782 in real time.