OK, LET ME START by making it very clear that this is not a review. This is a summary of A Discovery of Witches (ADoW), the TV-series based on the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. The following are my initial comments based on our first date.
In the first season of ADoW, we meet Doctor Diana Bishop, 34, an American historian specialising in Alchemy. She has returned to Oxford as the year’s Visiting Research Fellow, and she’s planning to spend most of her time scrutinising old manuscripts in the Bodleian and to write another book.
Diana’s parents, witches Rebecka Bishop and Stephen Proctor were killed when she was a kid, and she was raised by her aunt Sarah Bishop and her partner Emily Mather. Both of whom are witches too. The Bishops come from a long line of powerful witches who can trace their lineage back to Bridget Bishop, the first with to be excited in the Salem witch trials.
Diana has a little bit of magic in her too, but she believes her parents were killed because they were witches and she has no interest in developing her abilities. She just wants to live a normal life as a research scholar. Who just so happens to be studying magic? Oh, well…
It’s pretty obvious from the start, that Diana has a somewhat nervous disposition that she keeps in check with vigorous physical exercise. She runs and rows her boat (kayak?) on the river early in the morning and/or late at night.
From what we see of her interaction with her frazzled aunt Sarah and her more grounded aunt Emily, Diana isn’t very good at listening to their advice. She struggles with their witchiness and tries to find a way to navigate this world as a normal person would. Even though she clearly has a very limited understanding of what a normal person is/does.
Much like Bella Swan in Twilight, Diana Bishop is socially awkward and appears to be uncomfortable around other people and creatures. This is a woman who has grown up knowing that there are witches, vampires and daemons in this world and she can tell who/what they are as her witch power somehow feels their presence. She also knows that she cannot mention their existence to any of the normal hoomins she so desperately wants to belong to without outing herself as a witch.
Unlike Bella, however, Diana is no shrinking violet who puts other people’s needs before her own. Rather the opposite. When she sees something she likes, she goes after it with the fresh-faced curiosity of a research scholar.
The Love Story
In true chick flick fashion, Diana goes to school and meets heartthrob Matthew Clairmont. Only in this story, the girl is a woman, the boy is a man and the school is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Where they both just happen to hold two of the most sought after positions. They are both powerful professionals in their respective fields. But, of course, that doesn’t stop her from falling head over heels in love with a man she knows jack shit about.
Here’s Diana’s entire “meet-cute” to He’s The One arch:
1) In the school library (the Bod), Witch accidentally uses her power causing a book to fly off the shelf and land by Vampire’s feet. Vampire picks the book up, sniffs it and returns it to Witch.
Witch: You’re a vampire!
Vampire: *hands her his business card*
Witch: Professor Clairmont. Biochemistry.
Vampire: Doctor Bishop. Your writing is eloquent, but your witchcraft is not.
Witch: I’m a strong independent witch, thank you very much.
Vampire’s like: Ok…
Witch’s like: Wtf?
2) Witch sits in Caf googling Vampire on her laptop. Vampire walks in and sees what she’s doing.
Vampire: Anything of interest?
Witch: You’re stalking me! What do you want?
Vampire: You found a book in the library that every creature wants. You need to be careful.
Witch: Is that a threat?
Vampire: Ehh, no. It’s a warning. You do need to be careful.
Witch: I’m a strong independent witch, thank you very much. Good bye!
Vampire’s like: Ok…
3) Witch goes to library. Vampire is there to protect her from creatures on the hunt for the book.
Vampire: Good morning.
Witch: *sighs* Professor Clairmont. *sighs and sighs*
Vampire: Am I bothering you?
Witch: No. I’m just surprised you can sit in the sunlight.
Vampire: You don’t believe everything you read, do you? I thought you might like some company what with all these creatures here to watch your every move. I did warn you this would happen.
Witch: Well they’re only staring because I’m talking to you. I’m a strong independent witch, thank you very much. Good bye!
Vampire’s like: Ok…
4) Witch goes rowing late at night. Vampire keeps an eye on her.
Vampire: Do you actually think it’s safe down here in the dark?
Witch: You’re stalking me!
Vampire: I’m merely pointing out that rowing on your own is a risk. What did you do with the book?
Witch: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Vampire: A witch with your powers? How could you not know what the Book of Life is.
Witch: What you saw in the library was unusual. I don’t have any powers.
Vampire: Don’t lie to me. I can feel your powers.
Witch: Well, I don’t have the book, I told you I gave it back. Go get it yourself. Or are you going to rip my head off?
Vampire: I could, but that’s not who I am.
Witch: I’m gonna say this to you one more time. I’m a strong independent witch, thank you very much. Good bye!
Vampire: The book has been missing for centuries and yet you were able to find it. Aren’t you the least bit curious why? It has never appeared to me or anyone else no matter what we’ve done. It could be the key to our survival and you, a witch with no control of your magic, are the only one who can summon it.
Vampire: *picks up her jacket from the floor, sniffs it and growls*
Vampire: You need to leave. Walk past me slowly. No sudden movement. Go! But don’t run.
Witch’s like: Ok…
5) Witch is hounded by other creatures looking for the book. Just like Vampire said they would.
6) Witch learns that the book can be used for creature genocide and that her only friend is a conniving bitch with a strong anti-vampire agenda.
7) Witch realises she has no friends and no one to trust. In fact, the only one who’s been decent to her is the very Vampire she kept shooing off.
8) Witch breaks down and runs to the only places she believes she will be safe from crazy creatures. To Vampire.
9) Vampire tells her he’s 1500 years old, has seen most of the history she studies and was friends with Darwin. He takes her to his research lab and shows how he’s hoping to stop creatures from becoming extinct. Witch is warming to Vampire and when he kisses the pulse point on her wrist the deal is done. She is officially smitten and tells him what he wants to know about the book she found.
10) Witch invites Vampire over for dinner and makes his son tell her how to feed him. She asks him what her blood would taste like and kisses him. Yeah, it’s pretty much game over at that point.
While none of the falling in love arch made any sense in Twilight, in ADoW you can at least see why Diana falls for Matthew before she even knows him. She’s a Doctor of History specialising in Alchemical studies and he’s a vampire who’s lived through everything she’s interested in. He can give her first-hand accounts of things there are no reliable records of. Of course she finds him fascinating. Matthew even tells his mate that he’s become her latest research subject and he’s scared she won’t like what she learns about him.
Now, let’s take a look at Matthew’s “meet-cute” to She’s The One arch:
1) Vampire sees witch row her boat on the river.
2) Vampire prays in church and feels strong witchcraft vibes. Locates the source to the library and the witch from the river magically throws a book at his feet. Says he’ll never be able to forget her after that display.
3) Vampire enters stalker mode to find out where the witch has hidden the book he really wants. He ends up sniffing her jacket and tells her to get away from him. Safely.
4) Vampire goes to see his daemon mate and tells him he’s craving the witch.
Within a very short time span (a week?) Diana goes from fuck you, I’m a strong independent witch and I don’t need no vampire in my life, to a very different tune. Just like Bella, she wants that Vampire D, and just like Edward, Matthew won’t give it to her.
The smut writer in me can’t help finding it rather refreshing to read stories where the women are horny and begging for it while the men are being chaste and holding back. But Matthew, at least, is no virgin.
While Edward is refusing to have sex out of wedlock, Matthew has killed two previous non-vampire lovers and won’t risk Diana’s life.
The Big Bad
The Big Bad stacked against Diana and Matthew is a little more complicated than a thrill-seeking tracker and his deranged girlfriend.
Not only has Diana uncovered a book, The Book of Life, that all creatures want. It makes her a target as they want to use her to summon the book, so they can use it for their sinister purposes. There is also a jealous ex-girlfriend and a Creature Congregation in the picture.
As it turns out, there is a thousand-year-old covenant between the three species that makes inter-species relationships illegal. By breaking the covenant and refusing to help the Congregation get the Book of Life, Diana can be tried and sentenced to death.
And that’s not all. She also learns that her parents were killed by other witches who envied their extraordinary powers. Powers Diana may very well have inherited.
There are enemies in every corner and very few who can be trusted, so what are the lovey-dovey duo to do? Well, they need to work out what mysteries the Book of Life contains, and to do that Diana needs to learn how her magic works.
They leave Oxford to go stay with Matthew’s mother, witch-hating vampire matriarch Ysabeau de Clermont, in the family stronghold Sept Tours in France. But, of course, they are not safe there either. Diana is attacked by another witch and they end up travelling to her aunts in Madison, Wisconsin. Where Matthew is attacked by another vampire. So they decide to travel back in time instead, as they can’t seem to find a safe space in our own time.
And that’s it. A Discovery of Witches, season 1, in a nutshell.
First Date Feedback
I actually enjoyed watching this series. I came away from our first date looking forward to Season 2.
There are eight 41-45 minute long episodes, so there’s a whole lot to unpack here. And I will. But seeing as this is a Cliff’s notes and first impressions kinda post, I won’t dive into the deep end today.
I can see why this series became so popular, and given that I watched it right after Twilight I understand the references I read when I was checking the title out. Twilight if Bella had a degree. Twilight for adults. Yeah, I get where they are coming from but that does not make them right.
Sure, Twilight has become a pop culture phenomenon, but I refuse to believe it’s the class act we should compare every other vampire story to. From a production view point, I can see why they would like to replicate the financial success Twilight was. And still is. But it’s grossly unfair to compare other titles to Twilight as if Stephenie Meyer’s books were literary masterpieces within their genre. They’re not.
I haven’t made it to the books yet, but I’ll be looking into them too before I’m down with these titles. Just comparing plotlines, character development, and the Big Bad elements in the Twilight films compared to the ADoW series, they are not even playing in the same series. Which make sense given that one was written for young adults (13+) and the other for a mature audience.
Right now, I have two more seasons, four books and a helluva lot of dates to go through before I’m done with ADoW and ADoW-style vampires. But I promise, I’ll keep mixing the content up, so we’ll be talking about other things too. Like the other titles I’m currently dating; writing and storytelling in general; lessons to be learned from my extensive story dating; and glimpses of my own work.
Now, before I go:
– Have you watched A Discovery of Witches?
– What was your first impression of the series?
Let’s talk in the comments below, or send me your response via socials or email.
Thank you for being here today. I hope you had a good time and look forward to seeing you again soon.
CREDITS & COPYRIGHTS INFORMATION
Disclaimer: As We Write (AWW) is an independent, non-profit blog owned by Evalena Styf. AWW is not affiliated with Deborah Harkness, the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches (ADOW), Penguin Books, Bad Wolf, Sky UK, Sky Studios, Sky Vision, NBC Universal International Distribution or any other production or broadcast entities associated with All Souls or ADOW or any other titles mentioned.
Photo, Graphics, Audio and Video: Photos from All Souls, ADOW or any other titles discussed in this post are either screenshots or promotional pictures released by the distributor(s). All other pictures are from CanvaPro unless another source is mentioned. Any audio/video clips used in this post are strictly for commentary purposes. This usage falls under Fair Use according to US copyright law.