All Souls – A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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Now this is a funny review to write as even though I have left it a week since finishing the book – I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I even have notes on this book and I did some research into the author and events mentioned in the book as I wanted to get my facts right before I wrote this review.

So, let me start with saying that this book (and the second in the series) has sat on the bookcase in the spare room since 2014! And if it hadn’t been for the advert showing the TV adaptation, the books would have probably stayed on the shelf until I eventually caved and read them or donated them to charity.

But once I properly started it, I was racing through it and was hooked.

It starts with Diana Bishop, A tenured professor and non-practicing witch, coming across a spell bound book in the Bodleian Library whilst she is doing research which attracts the attention of other magical beings – Daemons, Vampires and other witches- and a certain Professor Claremont who just so happens to be a 1500-year-old vampire and we all know where that is going to lead 😊

So far so good and so simple, but of course some age-old covenant prohibits Witches, Daemons and Vampires fraternising and as they all want the book that only Diana can find this of course causes conflict between them all and is the basis for this book.

Instead of going into all the ins and outs of this story and giving away spoilers. I am going to go with what I did and didn’t enjoy about this in order to explain why I am unsure about this book –

What I Loved:

Oxford! the descriptions of Oxford and the Bodleian Library made me think I was actually there. I’ve visited Oxford a handful of times on daytrips and been into the Bodleian once, but after reading this I am booking my next trip to Oxford and planning on doing the library tour.

Diana Bishop – here we have a proper heroine, she is a tenured professor who has worked hard for what she has achieved, simply put she is not a simpering naive school girl.

The first kiss – 200 pages of build up for the first kiss, yes, this book is taking it slowly and building up the story instead of just making it all about the relationship between Diana and Matthew. And when they do kiss – it’s worth it!

The research that clearly went into this book – there is a lot of history in this book and it all seems to be meticulously researched and adds a richness to the story.

What I didn’t like:

This is where I contradict myself as for the reason I like this book, I also didn’t like it – Diana originally comes across as someone who knows her own mind and like I said ‘ is no simpering school girl’, however, when she is kidnapped and it’s revealed that Matthew had drugged her with his blood and killed another witch – she seems very passive about it?!??! I am pretty sure that if I had found out I’d been drugged by someone I trusted I would be pretty darn angry! We see this behaviour again when her Aunts clue her in as to what is in the Tea that Matthew’s Mother’s friend had insisted she drink.

Okay, so it took 200 pages of build up for the first kiss. After 600 pages, it hasn’t really progressed past this, though they are now ‘mated/ married’ – it’s mentioned a couple of times but nothing else. Just seems weird and like it is going to be some kind of overly dramatic drawn out affair when they do – as again, we are not dealing with teenagers here.

The story seems to jump around and it almost feels like it was written in sections i.e. the ‘ The First Meeting, Oxford’, followed by the ‘This Gets Real, France’ and the ‘Regrouping, Declaration of War, America’ section. People also seemed to be added in an almost formulaic way – Marcus and Miriam, his Mother and Marthe, Em and Sarah, and then Sophie and Nathaniel.

What I also feel I have to mention, and this is where I needed to do some research, is the similarities between this and other books, and the numerous pop culture references.

The most obvious comparison is with the Twilight series which was published between 2005 and 2008 so a couple of years before this was published in 2011. While the author has said that she has not read this I find it hard to believe that a huge pop culture event such as the Twilight books and subsequent movies wouldn’t have impacted on this, similar to this ‘ 50 shades of Grey’ – while there are not the X-rated scenes from Grey I am not going to lie – I do think that the Professor and Mr Grey share certain character traits.

We also have several references to ‘The Philosophers Stone’ I know this is an actual mythical object and not just related to Harry Potter but of course HP is where my mind kept going with it.

For the pop culture references I am not sure if the author is a seer or if this is just an awesome co-incidence – there is a reference to Catherine DI Medici and Diane de Poitiers, who both feature in the TV show ‘Reign’ from Thomas Jefferson and Marquis De Lafayette -Hello Hamilton! Then when I got to the passage ‘and I will give unto you the Morning Star’ I genuinely laughed and said ‘Clary or Jace right, no one wants Sebastian or Valentine turning up’ as my mind had gone straight to the Morgenstern’s from The Mortal Instruments which is a contemporary of this series.

After all this by the end I was glad to have finished the book as I felt it was going on and I wasn’t enjoying it as I had at the beginning and I was wondering if I would want to read the other books in the trilogy. However, a week later I am now actually about to start ‘Shadow of Night’ so we will see how I do with this one.

Happy Reading

Kate

xxx

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