This is how the book leads you into its magical, fantasy universe. When the first thing you see on the very first page of the book is a quote, this is when you know a book is gonna be amazing, and this quote is one good example- not too much, not too little. It makes you wonder what’s with this “discovery of witches”, what they want, what they discover and why it is so important that it even leads up to blood and fear.
“Magic is desire made real.”
How would it be if vampires and witches existed and dealt with science and humanities, working in libraries and chilly labs? This is how the debut novel from the “All Souls Trilogy” series came to life- when the author has asked herself this question. A novel in which the action takes place in contemporary England (the author is a historian specialized in 18th century) where the witches, vampires, daemons and people fight for a good understanding in the Oxford University’s libraries and, sometimes, even take part to the same yoga class. People are aware of these beings, but keep the distance: it was an unease relaxation, with a mix of stereotypes, caution and bigotry. But, essentially, life goes on… until the academic protagonist of the novel and the main storyteller, Diana Bishop, stumbles upon a medieval and elusive document, thought lost long ago, which can hold the secrets of everlasting life. But Diana catches not only the attention of a group of naggy creatures, but also the black eyes’ attention of a sumptuous and frightening vampire whose reserved charisma makes her to hardly resist.
Deborah Harkness is a known historian in science and medicine at the University of South Carolina, but much better known as the author of a novel series, abundant in alchemy and magic, witches and vampires. “A Discovery of Witches” is the debut novel full of supernatural and having a strong feminine point of view. Rather than being focused on a ghostly secret in an out of the ordinary place, its pursuits are huge, extending along the history and focusing its attention towards the DNA, the human and what’s beyond the profane. Once Diana seeks to find the secrets of “Ashmole 782” manuscript, science and magic interfere with evolution and alchemy.
The pace of the book is light- often too light- as Diana and Matthew revolve around each other, going from suspicion to trust. Their ever-growing relationship develops around some unsettling crimes in London and comes “face-to-face” with the strong mother (“maman”) of Matthew and a brilliant assassin-witch. On the theme of a mysterious book, though, Harkness stays loyal to the way books were used in other stories of gothic adventure. “Ashmole 782” remains enigmatic, a symbol of forbidden knowledge as the apple of Eden. The book shines under Diana’s look, reminding us of an old lesson about the power of books that never get old: “A small book can hold a big secret- one that could change the world”.
All I can say as a conclusion is that this book whetts my appetite for supernatural, especially magic and lost manuscripts and even though I’ve read it long ago, I can still say that it’s a book that will stay with me forever and if someone asks me what is a book I will always recommend, I would say in a heartbeat THIS BOOK. I was desperately searching for the next volumes and when I could find them, I think all my face brightened and my eyes shined and I can’t wait to see what happens next. It is and will always be an ALL-TIME FAVOURITE book and I can never forget it.