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A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness A Discovery of the Witches

"It begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches..."

The Discovery of the Witches is the most fascinating book I have ever read. My God, the amount of knowledge one must possess to be able to write a such complex story.

It's not an easy read and don't go in hoping that it is. I think, that in order to completely enjoy and appreciate the story for what it is, and it is a piece of art, in my opinion, you have to have at least some basic knowledge about some of the significant historical events, old books or manuscripts, a little about biology or/and science. You don't have to know the exact details of the events or context of the manuscripts, but you need to at least have heard about dem. The rest is explained.
If you think that the chromosome might be some kind of rare plant, that grows in the Amazons, and the DNA is a new boy band, fighting for the spotlight with One Direction, this book is not for you!

The story starts with a witch, Diana Bishop, going out and about with her day, doing her research in Oxford's Bodleian Library, going through her everyday routine, but this time, she discovers a very rare manuscript (which actually exists in real life, or existed, to be precise), by accident (?).
She is a historian and young scholar at the university, and the descendent of witches. She knows she is a witch, she have known that her whole life, but she refuses to use her magic, because of what happened to her and her family in the past. She wants to be normal. She is aware that the vampires and daemons exists. She can feel them, but refuses to acknowledge dem.
The moment she touches the manuscript weird things start happening.
Suddenly, she can feel every eye of every witch, vampire and daemon on her. And here is when we meet the vampire and the professor, Matthew de Clairmont. There is a lot of mystery surrounding de Clermont. Even though he is an employ of the university, he doesn't lecture or take on the apprentices. He is known for his studies of neutral mechanisms and prefrontal cortex (whatever the hell that means :-D), and his studies and publications on wolves. Which explains nothing about why he decides to approach Diana Bishop. And that's why Diana decides to dig around for information about him. Why the sudden interest?

The more she discovers about him, the more suspicious he looks. But the thing is, Diana have enough secrets of her own.

The most amazing thing about this story is the way author describes witches, vampires and daemons. She describes them based on her research, as a historian, and the tales that we (humans) have been passing on to the others, from generation to generation. There are a lot of actual facts. Regardless, if you believe that such creatures exists or not, there were times when people did believe that they did exist.

Another thing that amazed me was the way author used historical events, the breakthrough scientific publications and well know classic literature, to twist/super-naturalize it, for it to suit the story, and make me believe that all I knew about it was not as important as I thought it was. It made me believe, that all that, was only a small pieces of the puzzle, of the bigger picture, in the Diana Bishop's and Matthew de Clairmont's story.
It was mind blowing.
It reminded me a lot of the move The da Vinci Code. That is the only thing that I can compare this book to. In the movie, at the end, outside the church, Tom Hanks says to what's-her-name "You know, we never actually found any evidence that Jesus was a "he" and not a "she."". Movie ends and you left thinking "WTF?!". That is pretty much how this book made me feel. It made me doubt everything that I know :).
Usually, when I read a book in this genre, I adjust my expectations to sustain degree. I know that there will be either vampires, witches or daemons, that the story is fictional and that anything is possible. But with this story, it was hard to tell where the actual truth ended and the fiction began...

This book can be analyzed from many different angles. One might think that it's about forbidden love and overcoming the obstacles. Others might think that it's about more important things like finding the answers to the questions like "Who are we? Why are we here? What's our purpose?". For me, it's about all of the above.
The thing that makes this story so realistic is that witches, daemons and vampires are asking the same questions as we, humans, have been asking for centuries :-D.


I don't blame those who gave up on this book halfway through. The first half of the book is slow-paced. Not as in it's boring, but there is not a lot of action going on (fighting, killing, sex and so on). The author goes into a great details explaining things that Diana Bishop comes across or remembers. This book focuses on the fact that knowledge can be just as powerful as the physical strength (Learning, planing, strategizing, then striking). But it suits the story. You can't rush when you are asking such an important questions, right? :-). It have to be properly explained.
There are a lot of secrets surrounding two main characters, the mysterious manuscript and supporting characters as well. That is why the story can't be rushed.

Even though the book was a 600 page brick and it took me a while to finish, I enjoyed it quiet a bit and can't wait to start the Shadow of Night.

" Comperi, Comperi' she said.
'Merces amb tot meu cor' he said quietly.
Al rebeire. Mefi.