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BOOK REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches (The All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness

"There is more to the game than protecting your queen" Hamish said. "Why do you find it so difficult to remember that it's the king who's not expendable?......The king just sits there, moving one square at a time. The queen can move so freely. I suppose I'd rather lose the game than forfeit her freedom"

I have been wanting to read The All Souls Trilogy series for quite some time now, and this time of year seems like the perfect time to dive into the series! A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the series and though it had more of a slow start, once things started to unfold, I was quickly hooked and intrigued of where the story was going to go!

A Discovery of Witches follows a young alchemical scholar, Diana Bishop. Diana has a routine in her current research studies, and it involves going to Oxford's Bodleian library every day, reviewing and researching different alchemical manuscripts, taking notes, and repeat. One day, one of the books that Diana called up ends up being a bewitched alchemical manuscript. Diana can feel the magic, and since she wants nothing to do with magic and sorcery, she makes a few hasty notes, and sends the book back. You see, Diana is descended from an ancient and distinguished line of witches. Ever since her parents were murdered when she was a young girl, she wants nothing to do with witches and sorcery. Unfortunately, with her discovery of this manuscript, and being able to unseal the magic concealing it like no one else has in centuries, Diana and the library are suddenly flooded by witches, vampires, and daemons who all want to learn her secret in how she was able to call the book.

One of these fantastical creatures is none other than Matthew de Clermont. Matthew is an ancient vampire who is steeped in science and genetics. Matthew has spent years researching the genetics of vampires, witches, and daemons and how they differ from the humans in the world. Matthew believes, as many others do, that the Ashmole 782, the bewitched alchemical manuscript, holds the secrets of origins for all the creatures. As he believes the vampires are dying off, he would love to get his hands on this manuscript to uncover its secrets.

Matthew noticed Diana one evening as she used a touch of magic to call a book to her. He is intrigued by her and begins to show up wherever she is at. It seems that Diana is in danger from not only her fellow witches, but also daemons and vampires, as everyone wants to get their hands on this manuscript. Matthew begins to watch out and protect Diana as much as he can while they also begin to uncover that Diana not only holds magical power within her, but may be one of the strongest and most powerful witches he has ever seen. In the midst of spending time together, and protecting her from all other creatures, they fall in love. It is more imperative than ever to find this manuscript, uncover its secrets, and protect Diana, and their forbidden love, from the underworld.

This is Deborah Harkness's debut novel, and it is a wonderful read! I love that she ties in true history along with magic and paranormal creatures. She writes such a suspenseful storyline that I felt like I couldn't read fast enough to try and see how things will play out, and of course knowing that it is the first book in the series, you know it is going to end on a cliffhanger of some sort. And through all of that, she finds a way to begin a slow burn, beautifully forbidden love story between Matthew and Diana. What started as an alliance to find the manuscript and protect Diana from those who are trying to bring her harm, deepens into this intimate love that brings out the strength and best in each other.

Diana is a young and intelligent female lead. She broke barriers and became a widely respected scholar in the field of alchemy when many didn't think she could. The trauma of her parents' deaths forced Diana to turn her back on magic and to devote her life to history and normalcy. Yet, as the pages unfold, we learn that it wasn't just Diana choosing to turn her back on magic, but that her parents spellbound her to protect her. As Diana learns more about this bewitched manuscript, spends more time with Matthew, and learns more about herself and her parents, she starts to believe in herself more, in her ability to protect herself and those around her, she beings to believe in a love that she didn't think she would have in her life, and she wants to protect and strengthen that bond more than anything.

Matthew is quite a character. When he was first introduced to us in the beginning, I wasn't sure if he was going to be a good or bad guy. He seemed to want to protect Diana, but he is so closed off and secretive that I wasn't sure if he was truly just using Diana for his own means and gain. Then we begin to see that he truly cares for Diana, even though he knows he shouldn't. He is an ancient vampire, with many lifetimes of secrets, with a conscious that is so guilt-ridden that he does not feel worthy of sharing his true feelings for Diana. He is overly protective and wants to be in control of everything that is happening.

Deborah has such a unique and wonderful writing style. Her descriptions are beautiful, and you can easily imagine the castles, libraries, and landscape of these important locations. The story flowed from one scene to the next very easily where I felt enveloped into the story, but was also slowly being given backstory and history behind the knowledge and characters. As I mentioned above, the story did start off slower as we are being introduced to the main characters and to the overall story, but once things began happening and unfolding, it was easy to get lost in the story. This is such a unique story that setting the stage took a little time but once it was, I was enraptured with the characters.

As for the romance in the is probably the slowest burn I have read in the longest time. Matthew and Diana, at first, do not trust each other or seem to be very wary of each other. Then Diana begins to be very curious and intrigued by Matthew, vampire be damned. She wants to know more about him, wants to know more about his history, but is also comforted and feels safe around him. Matthew is instantly dazzled by Diana. Dazzled seems silly, but that's how I felt. He is attracted to her scent, intrigued by her magic, and then begins to enjoy her company the more he spends time with her. He becomes overly protective and wants to keep her safe. They both kind of deny their feelings for each other for quite awhile. Then the longing looks and deep stares begin.

When they finally kiss, it's like ahh. Diana realizes how she truly feels and doesn't hesitate to tell Matthew, and once she does, there is no stopping her. She loves him, she wants to be with him, and nothing else should matter. When he finally admits he loves her as well, you think things would progress quickly after that, but no. I cannot wait to dive into the second book to see their relationship progress. The views of time between a human witch and a 1500+ year old vampire is very interesting. Though things do not get spicy, the intimacy they share is beautiful and magical in itself.

Overall, this was such an enjoyable read. I truly enjoyed the history that is thrown into the pages as well as the paranormal. The story is very long, almost 600 pages, but I flew through the pages each time I sat down to read. The story ended on a little bit of a cliffhanger but nothing too drastic. With everything Matthew and Diana have learned about Diana's magic, the manuscript, and the relationship between Matthew and Diana, I cannot wait to see how things will play out in book 2!

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