Roush Review: 'A Discovery of Witches' Is Luxurious and Intelligent Escapism

Matt Roush
Review SUNDANCE

Like True Blood with a PhD, A Discovery of Witches potently mixes sensuality and the supernatural, adding a pedigree of scholarly wisdom from the hallowed halls of Oxford University.

That's where historian Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), who has long repressed the witch within, unearths an ancient tome, a Book of Life sought after by witches, vampires and demons alike. (All live secretly among humans.)

Diana's discovery makes her a target, and also draws her to Matthew Clairmont (Downton Abbey's elegant Matthew Goode), a geneticist and ancient vampire.

Their cross-species relationship raises suspicions among the underworld's ruling Congregation, based in glorious-looking Venice, and soon they’re both in danger. Which means a crash course for Diana in the ways of witchcraft.

Adapting Deborah Harkness's excellent All Souls trilogy, Discovery is luxurious and intelligent escapism, though hobbled by Palmer's less-than-bewitching blandness. Goode more than compensates with his usual grace, while hinting at his inner beast.

He's the ghoul to watch.

A Discovery of Witches, Series Premiere Thursday, January 17 Sundance Now and Shudder