Well… where do I start?! At a hefty 690 pages this is hardly a short read, but don’t be alarmed – the story isn’t necessarily difficult to follow, so it’s easy to dip in and out of.
A Discovery of Witches will (not surprisingly) appeal to fans of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and all other supernatural-based dramas. The reader is first introduced to Diana Bishop, a descendant of the famous Bishop bloodline dating back to when witches were burnt at the stake in Salem. But Diana isn’t your ordinary witch; researching alchemy at modern-day Oxford University, she has spent most of her life choosing not to rely on magic. Aside from a few instances where magic really comes in handy of course, like when you can’t reach a book you need on the top shelf of the University library…
Diana has been spotted. Not by a human, thank goodness, but by something else. Matthew Clairmont is vampire several centuries old, and his eyes are piercing the spot between Diana’s shoulder blades. This chilling introduction between the two characters is the start of a tangle of conflicts around Diana, her family and an ancient manuscript that holds the secrets of all supernatural creatures. Diana’s unclear dynasty ensures that she is the only witch who can unleash and interpret the power behind this manuscript – undeniably overwhelming for a witch who barely uses magic. Henceforth other witches, vampires and daemons all over the world are on high alert; stalking, threatening, contriving, impatiently waiting for answers that have been sought for centuries.
And how could I forget, no supernatural drama is complete without an inter-species relationship! Of course Diana and Matthew fall hopelessly in love, which is severely frowned upon by the Congregation representing supernatural beings. But Matthew must protect Diana from other vampires, daemons and witches in search for the manuscript’s secrets. He works tirelessly with Diana to try and unscramble her secrets – what happened to her parents, how to unlock her magic and how she has come to be linked with such a powerful and important manuscript.
One of the things I particularly liked about this book was (ignoring the cliché’s that did exist) there were elements of this story that I have not come across before in a supernatural narrative, for example spellbinding and time travel. It was refreshing to be enticed into different events not replicated from mainstream best-sellers such as Twilight, but I still can’t say I was too excited by the story-line as a whole. It has a very linear progression, which is great for an easy-read, but meant that it was predictable at times. As a reader I do like to be left guessing occasionally, but there was no room for this at all – every plot development was accounted for, which I don’t believe is always necessary and can result in a bulk of dull narrative that just fills the gaps.
I do feel though that the characters are well defined and there is a good range of different traits. Diana herself comes across as very independent, focused but also vulnerable, especially in the absence of her parents. Matthew is mysterious, wise and stubborn – very typical for a vampire! Diana’s aunts are eccentric, fussy and over-protective. I felt myself change my perception of only one character in the whole book, and that was Matthew’s ‘mother’, Ysabeau. She came across as slightly threatening to begin with and I flagged her as a character not to trust. However, I began to see how misunderstood she was as Diana began to warm to her and crave her maternal presence.
Overall, I think the book would appeal more to readers who have not read many supernatural texts before and are looking for something a bit different – the story-line is quite predictable for those who are familiar with vampire-esque stories, but as I mentioned there are some elements that I have not come across before.
The Discovery of Witches is the first book in a trilogy series, all of which are hefty sizes so this series would require a fair bit of dedication. Similar to my verdict on The Rosie Project, I’m unsure whether I will continue reading, but I am intrigued to see how the story develops and unfolds in the second installment, so I’ll definitely keep an open mind and will possibly approach the second book in the near future. It depends how soon I need a vampire fix!