A Discovery of Witches: Twilighty, But…Better!

A Discovery of Witches: Twilighty, But…Better!A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
Published by Viking Penguin on February 2011
Genres: fantasy, paranormal, romance
Format: paperback, 579 pages
Amazon & Goodreads

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

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.

I insinuated in an earlier post that I probably wouldn’t review this…but what the heck! I originally thought this because I took a huge break in the middle of the book to read other books (it’s really unfortunate when I do this because recalling events in a novel is hard on my wittle brain, unless I make notes — which I didn’t — but fortunately, after a reading a few pages when I came back to it, it was relatively easy to just jump back into the world of Matthew Clairmont and Diana Bishop. (I can’t brag that I remember everything that happened, but, y’know, a decent amount.)

So I finished this Wednesday night — which was such a tiring day, and I kept nodding off as I was finishing the last 40 pages that I had, but I barrelled on through! — and wanted to touch on something that a lot of people had mentioned about this book: that it was comparable to Twilight, except…better.

You can totally gather from the title that this book is about witches, so HOW, you might ask, is it like Twilight, the demon spawn of all YA literature? (Okay, I can’t hate on it too much, because it was one of the first series I remember completing throughout high school — yes, not even Harry Potter could top Twilight in my eyes…forgive me, I was young. And now I’m older and a little bit wiser.)

So instead of vampires vs. werewolves, it’s a trifecta of vampires, witches, and daemons (and I also believe werewolves were mentioned briefly?? — but they aren’t relative to this book, at least). Our protagonist is a witch who has completely rejected her witchy culture and powers and just wants to live the life of a normal human in England, studying alchemical manuscripts. One fateful day, she calls upon an ancient manuscript that no one has seen in a very long time — and basically, every witch/vampire/daemon/creature wants to get their hands on this manuscript.

I’ll admit, the premise didn’t exactly “capture my attention” at first, but I read it because a friend from work let me borrow her very loved copy. And I trusted her judgement, so carry on, I did.

Enter Matthew Clairmont — vampire! He wants to get his hand on this manuscript, too, because he’s all about discovering the birth of vampires. The first half of the book seemed a little slow to me, and this might have initiated the big pause — like, almost two months — where I didn’t pick it up at all. Instead, I read other books. Like 4 or 5 other books. But when I stepped back into the world,it was easy to just keep reading and reading to find out what happens between the witch and the vampire.

While they didn’t instantaneously love each other, it did seem a bit sudden. And once they declare that they will stick together, no matter what each other’s species has to say about it, that’s when the Congregation (aka, a small group comprised of each of the three creatures in the world) decides to get involved — and this is where the similarities come into play. Some characters are sent to break them up, either via kidnapping or death, and Diana gets a little “Bella” on us by damning all consequences because Matthew is the love of her life, no matter what, and she would rather face death.

But at least Diana isn’t some lame, emotionless high-schooler who really has no redeeming qualities about her. Diana is smart, determined, and is secretly a bad-ass witch. (Who can’t control her powers, but that’s beside the point!) And at least there is no vampire/werewolf/human love triangle — or any type of love triangle! While Diana is swarmed upon by other creatures because she called this manuscript that was never supposed to be found, they venture to Paris under the guise of safety, but nothing is really safe now, and when they get to Diana’s aunt’s house — a house that is SO COOL I WANT TO LIVE IN IT — is where I really started to rapidly turn those pages.

So while there are some elements that may make you think Twilight, A Discovery of Witches is a book that deserves to stand apart from the human-vampire love trope. Harkness creates unique characters with an unparalleled plot, and I’m eager to pick up the second book, which my friend wants me to do soon so that we can discuss!

DEAR READER: What do you ultimately think about Twilight? Do you think you’d be interested in A Discovery of Witches?

Now that it is well past midnight, Rosie must venture to her comfy-cozy bed where she will try to read some more of When Dimple Met Rishi, but then she will ultimately succumb to beautiful slumber. Ahhh, sleep. She had a delightful day, consisting of a fun gym workout with friends, a vision-board decorating sesh with Brandi, and shopping — which resulted in a $130 loss. She hopes your weekend is going just as good as hers, and hopes you’ll stick around for more future book reviews & blubbering nonsense! ♥

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  1. Ha ha ha. A few years ago I ran into a friend of mine who has very literary tastes. She told me about this amazing book she just read. She described the plot and I was like “Oh, it sounds like Twilight.” She was horrified. But I read this and lol it is very much like a more adult Twilight. And that is not a bad thing at all!
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    1. I mean, though I’ll admit I really did like Twilight back in high, I gotta say I’m still bitter about Bella not choosing Jacob. I was always Team Jacob! But the series, as a teenager, was enthralling, and I’ll never hate ’em for it. But now that I’m older, I understand there are better books — like this one for instance! I like that the main character is a witch and that she just has more of a personality than Bella ever did. It’s more understandable why Matthew Clairmont loves Diana, I guess! But yeah, it’s kind of funny how so many people relate the plot to Twilight, although it’s pretty different in many aspects. 🙂

  2. Yeah, the premise doesn’t exactly capture my attention either. I tend to trust recommendations from readers I trust more than premises/descriptions themselves, though! I always seem to hear great things about this series, so I might try it sometime. 🙂

    1. Right?? But some of the things my friend told me about it made me think that it might be something I’d be interested in. And also, you know how sometimes you just wanna read it because a friend rec’d it to ya and you’d feel slimy if you didn’t even give it a chance?? Yeah, that was me. Fortunately, I liked it! Friend recs are always so much more trusted for me, too. Sometimes even blurbs can be misleading, too, which stinks. I hope that if you check it out, you’ll like it!

  3. I’ve heard quite a lot of things about this book but have never taken the plunge to read it. I think because I have to be in a very specific kind of mood to read paranormal books nowadays. Probably because I read so many at the height of paranormal romance popularity.

    I honestly don’t hate Twilight. I think it helped a lot of people get into reading, and I think it payed a big role in YA developing as an age group outside of kids and adult fiction. So even though it’s not perfect, and it has its problems I definitely don’t hate it.

    A Discovery of Witches sounds really interesting, although I’m wary of that length, considering that the story doesn’t sound very detailed, haha.

    I’m glad you ended up liking this one after all, Rosie!
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    1. Same, I kind of fell off the “vampire romance” train quite awhile ago. I guess I’m afraid they’re just all the same, or just very closely related to Twilight? But I agree, I didn’t necessarily hate them, because those books really did get me into reading during my high school years. I mean, I have always loved to read, but it paved the road to the YA genre for me.

      But on the contrary, it was VERY detailed lol. There was so much detail sometimes that I wanted to just get to the gist of what was happening, and I got kind of lost in all the additional elements. But it might take me awhile to pick up the second book. Even though I want to know what’s gonna happen, I am SWAMPED with books I want to read. :O

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