Title: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls #1)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publication Date: September 2011
Genre: Paranormal / Literary Fiction
Source: Bought Copy
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. (Goodreads Synopsis)
Wow, I can't begin to say how much I loved this book. When I first heard of it, I thought it sounded like my kind of story and I wasn't in the least bit disappointed when I finally picked it up.
I've always loved vampires, but paranormal romance often seems pretty 'dumbed down' to me - lots of smouldering looks but little substance. The one exception I'd found in the past was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's historical vampire series - and now I can add Deborah Harkness too!
This book was a great supernatural tale that blended romance, action and suspense with a healthy dose of literary fiction style writing. I loved how the paranormal was woven into this world of academia and it was an idea that worked so well and really fleshed out both the plot and the characters.
The writing is great, the story well paced and the ending left me frustrated at how long I still had to wait for the next instalment. I was eager to turn every page and if it hadn't been for other commitments during the last few days, I could have happily sat down for a whole day and read it from cover to cover without stopping.
Diana is a great heroine: strong, intelligent and interesting. Matthew reminds me a lot of Yarbro's Saint Germain: handsome, alluring, knowledgeable and honourable. He has his dark side (which I think we will see more in the next book somehow) but he doesn't brood about it as so many vampire-heroes seem to do these days. They work well together and their relationship developed at a pace I found believable and engaging.
This is without a doubt my top read of 2011 and I shall be pre-ordering the next book as soon as it becomes available! What an amazing debut for Harkness and I look forward to her future works.