Literature: A Discovery of Witches
A Discovery of Witches
is the first novel in the All Souls Trilogy
by Deborah Harkness, which weaves together elements of science, history, romance, and fantasy.
The first book was published in 2011, and the second book Shadow of Night
was published in July 2012. The next, as yet unnamed book is in progress. According to the author's website, it may be out sometime in 2014.
Historian Diana Bishop, who is descended from a long line of witches, has been fighting the influence of magic throughout the majority of her life. However, when she opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford's Bodleian library, Diana discovers that she can no longer keep magic out of her carefully ordinary life.
After Diana returns the book, it becomes clear that creatures (classified as witches, daemons, and vampires) are after its secrets. They believe that it contains important clues about the creation and future of creatures and desperately want to know how Diana, an unskilled witch, was able to get her hands on the elusive volume.
Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.
This series contains examples of:
- Alchemy Is Magic: Though Diana has convinced herself that alchemy is simply the gateway to modern chemistry, it is apparent that the discipline is more magical than she wanted to believe.
- All Witches Have Cats: Diana's aunts have a cat named Tabitha, who seems to have some level of precognition.
- Badass Family: Both the de Clermonts and the Bishops.
- Battle Couple: Michael and Diana both exhibit impressive displays of combat due to their supernatural abilities.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Several historical figures are revealed to be either witches, daemons, or vampires. Matthew would know, he knew most of them personally!
- Beta Couple: Sarah and Emily, Diana's aunts.
- Black Sheep: Both Diana, a witch who tries not to use magic, and Sophie, a daemon born to a family of witches.
- Blessed with Suck: Diana's magic has the potential to make her the greatest witch alive — if it doesn't get her killed, first, particularly witchwater, which has threatened to erode away her conscious self.
- The Clan: The de Clermonts.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Satu does this to Diana. She tries to use an opening spell on her back in order to extract the information she needs. Sarah says that this sort of spell was not meant to be used on living things.
- Combo Platter Powers: Late in book one, it's revealed that Diana has in her the potential for almost every single power known to witches. Most witches only have one or two supernatural abilities.
- Fantastic Racism: Most creatures exhibit a degree of prejudice and distrust towards one another.
- Fourth Date Marriage
- Genki Girl: Sophie, a daemon, is very friendly and quite the chatterbox.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Elizabeth Tudor doesn't like it when she doesn't get her way.
- Gossipy Hens: The women of the Malá Strana. It proves useful.
- How Do I Shot Web?: Diana has very little control over her witch powers and often finds simple tasks, such as magically lighting a candle, to be beyond her abilities.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Diana's main desire after her parents' murder.
- I Love You, Vampire Son: Vampires, or at least Matthew's family, exhibit strong amounts of affection for one another.
- Immortality Seeker: Rudolph II, the Holy Roman Emperor, hopes that Edward Kelley will make him a philosopher's stone. Elizabeth I wants Kelley back in England so he will not do this for Rudolph. The immortality and gold that would come if he made her a philosopher's stone would be nice, too. She also considers being made a vampire, but Matthew tells her that would violate the law of the Congregation.
- Interspecies Romance: Between Matthew, a vampire and Diana, a witch.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Vampires aren't supposed to be able to sire children, but due to Diana being a Weaver, a witch who creates new spells, Matthew and Diana are able to conceive. Subverted in that Diana miscarries their first child.
- Love at First Sight: Strongly implied between Matthew and Diana, although with Diana it's more like "Love at My Decision to Not Beat You Down On Sight."
- Making a Splash: One of Diana's powers.
- Mayfly-December Romance: Matthew is a nigh-immortal vampire, while it seems witches like Diana have normal human lifespans.
- Muggle Born of Mages: Sophie is a subversion of this: she comes from a long line of witches, but she herself is a daemon. And, although she and her husband are daemons, she know her child will be a witch.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: This seems to be Juliette's intention when she challenges Matthew and Diana in the woods. Instead, Diana uses witchfire to kill Juliette in self-defense
- Non-Human Humanoid Hybrid: What could result if Diana and Matthew have a child. If Ashmole 782 is correct, this could be the solution to the problem of creatures dying out.
- Occult Blue Eyes: Diana, a powerful witch, has striking blue eyes with gold around her irises. She is quite the sophisticated witch, being very well-educated and preferring to live as a Muggle. Her eyes also count as Elemental Eye Colors, since she can use witchwater.
- Official Couple: Matthew and Diana.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires in this universe are not harmed by the sun, do not have fangs, can't fly, and can't change into bats. Interestingly, they are able to ingest food such as rare meat, nuts, and wine. However, blood still makes up the majority of their diet. Vampire hearts also beat, just at a much slower rate than humans.
- Parental Abandonment: Diana's parents were murdered in Africa when she was seven years old.
- Parental Substitute: After her parents' death, Diana was raised by her aunt, Sarah and her partner, Emily.
- The Patriarch: Philippe de Clermont.
- Playing with Fire: Another of Diana's powers.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Twice: When Matthew decides to leave Diana (albeit temporarily) and when Diana has to heal his near-fatal wounds from Juliette
- Really 700 Years Old: Matthew is around 1,500 years old, but has the appearance of a 37-year-old.
- Super Senses: Vampires have excellent hearing and smell. The latter has a drawback, in the fact that most vampires find the smile of cooked food to be slightly nauseating.
- Time Travel: Diana has this power as well.
- Title Drop: Of the novel, in the epigraph:
It begins with absence and desire,
It begins with blood and fear,
It begins with a discovery of witches.
- And of the series, in chapter 14.
Matthew looked down with a shy smile. "Welcome to All Souls."
- Witch Species: Witchcraft and power distribution are hereditary.
- Write What You Know: Deborah Harkness is a historian of medieval/renaissance science and a wine enthusiast, much like her characters.