Harkness, Deborah: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls) (2011)

The Duke Humfrey’s Library in the BodleianWhen you go to Deborah E Harkness’ website, you will find information not only on her All Souls trilogy, but also on Ashmole 782, alchemy and a reading guide. Deborah teaches history of science and medicine specializing in the period from 1400-1700. As such, Deborah is Diana  Bishop – our female protagonist.

Diana is not only in Academia, she is also a witch with a few issues. In fact, she is an anti-magic witch and tries to use her magic as little as possible. After discovering a disturbing volume in the Bodleian library, Ashmole 782, her magic seems to be having a will of its own. Ashmole 782 zapped Diana somehow and she banishes the book back to the stacks.

Other creatures like herself (witches) and vampires and daemons have a difficult time believing that she has gotten rid of the book and a time of stalking and persecution begins.

Like Deborah, Professor Matthew de Claremont (our male protagonist) also has an interest in history. In his case it is the history of genetics (among other things) that he researches. Because of the zap, Matthew takes an interest in Diana. Matthew finds himself drawn to Diana, and she to him.

I really, really like the fact that A Discovery of Witches stays at Oxford and the Bodleian through a major part of the book. It is highly interesting to read about the feeling of reverence that Deborah has for the library and the important role it plays in society. Words are music and the music of A Discovery of Witches is the kind that enters your soul and leaves you replete.

Diana and Matthew are fun and frustrating characters. In many ways A Discovery of Witches follows the pattern that a great many action and romance books do. The main protagonists are on opposite sides to begin with and through hardship they are brought together and become friends/lovers.

I’ve read complaints about all of the things that I liked about the book – lots of data, frustrating characters, library. Kind of funny really, how different our tastes in books are and how we are drawn to such different facets of them. I would say that this is a non-typical yet typical supernatural story about adventure and identity.

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