“Bewitched books? Daemons following you? Vampires taking you to yoga?”–This line from Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches sounds like the opening to an infomercial when taken out of context, but it also lends itself to summarizing the novel itself.
Diana is a witch who just wants to fit in with humans and does not want to use magic to the point that she can count how many times a year she’s actually used magic (but she really had no choice when it came to the incident with the washing machine). Diana is also a professor and a scholar in the history of science. Specifically, she focuses on alchemy. Her anti-magic using ways are turned on their head after she requests an alchemical manuscript referred to as Ashmole 782 from the stacks at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and she is thrust into a world of not only witches, but vampires and daemons as well. Conspiracy abounds in this first book of the All Souls Trilogy and pulls the reader along for the thrilling ride.
Over all, the book is decent. There are a few things that annoyed me as a reader. The first third of the book is very repetitious; the reader really gets to know Diana’s daily routine because every chapter details it in depth. Once Diana and Matthew (the vampire) leave Oxford, the book finally breaks out of its routine and picks up in both action and interest.
The amount of detail describing certain things borders on obnoxious. Harkness herself obviously is into rowing and wines, and she wants you to know this. Diana’s rowing exercise is described in detail in multiple chapters, but doesn’t come near to the rambling descriptions of how certain wines taste and smell. I got to the point where I just skimmed over these because it was becoming ridiculous and unnecessary. Yes, we get it, the witches and vampires have super smelling senses.
Harkness does do a wonderful job of world building when she’s not getting lost in the minute details, and the book has interested me enough to where I will pick up the other books in the series eventually (as of writing this review, the second book, Shadow of Night, has just been recently released), but I won’t clamber to get them on release day. I’ll wait until I can pick them up from a bargain bin or from a second hand store.