A Discovery of Witches

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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 will be published July 2012.

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.


Tropes used in A Discovery of Witches include:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Interspecies Romance: Between Matthew, a vampire and Diana, a witch.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Nonhuman 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Time Travel: Diana has this power as well.
  • 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.