A Discovery of Witches and A Discovery of Fantastic Fiction

A Discovery of Witches and A Discovery of Fantastic Fiction

Before I start my next article, I would just like to mentioned how saddened I am from the passing of Alan Rickman. He truly was a phenomenal actor who brought to life the role of Professor Snape like no one else could. R.I.P.


The All Souls Trilogy is written by debut novelist Deborah Harkness. Deborah is a professor of history at the University of Southern California, and winner of multiple awards such as the History of Science Society’s Pfizer Award, and the Derek Price Prize. Her vast knowledge of history is what makes these novels really unique. She adds some rather well known names, such as playwright William Marlowe, as cameo appearances throughout the stories but with a rather interesting twist. Deborah has mastered coalescing real life with fantasy like I have never seen before.

The stories focus on Diana Bishop, a scholar of Oxford and a descendant from an old line of witches; and Matthew Clairmont, a Scientist and ancient vampire. Upon checking through books at the Bodleian Library, Diana comes across an ancient alchemical manuscript. Because Diana frowns upon her magical heritage, she is reluctant to put too much thought into the strange feeling she gets when looking though the pages. So after a quick glance and note or two, she places the manuscript back in the stacks; completely unknowing to the importance of what she just held in her hands.

These books have a little bit of everything. They are stories of forbidden love and ancient spells, of vampires, daemons (no, this is not misspelt), and witches. Time travel is also a very interesting constituent to the stories. The second novel Shadow of Night is where this really comes into play. I doubt I would be able to pick a favourite out of the series, but Shadow of Night is definitely a stand out because of it’s time travel aspects. Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London in 1590 in search of the ancient manuscript; and to find solace from the hoards of witches, daemons, and vampires that are pursuing them. Matthew must reclaim his identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, and falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night, many of them being daemons and great minds of the age. Deborah really brings the streets of London to life in this book. While most of it is very dark and dismal, there are also the moments of beauty.

The last book in the series is The Book of Life. With Matthew and Diana back at Sept-Tours (Matthews ancestral home), they reunite with a large cast of characters from the first two novels. With the threat to their lives drawing ever closer, the urgency to find the manuscript becomes even more imperative. They must unite ancient knowledge and modern science in order to reveal the secrets of the manuscript. This book is a fantastic ending to the series, as Harkness creates a sense of passion and power throughout this novel like none of the others.

This is a series that I found completely enchanting and was very wistful to finish. However Deborah Harkness will be returning in 2017 with her new novel The Serpents Mirror. This will be based on Matthew Clairmont’s life in the Elizabethan era. Needless to say I am very excited to sink my teeth into this novel and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. If you would like a little more information on any of the novels, you can find it here on deborahharkness.com.

15 Jan 2016 8:44 PMAlex Barb