Whenever TV decides to take a stab at adapting a beloved novel, readers around the world tend to cringe and brace for impact. For some reason, it seems like Hollywood's favorite thing to do is completely destroy everything fans love about the source material. Luckily for A Discovery of Witches fans, the series first season is actually an incredibly faithful adaptation of the original novel — and in some ways, it's even better!
While the novel had nearly 600 pages worth of twists, turns, and brushes with death, as a TV series, A Discovery of Witches only had eight short episodes to tell Matthew (Matthew Goode) and Diana's (Teresa Palmer) story, which presented a bit of a problem. How do you squeeze everything in there without missing out on the important character beats needed to make the story feel organic?
A Discovery of Witches ended up doing a masterful job choosing what to include and what to play down (let's all send a quiet prayer of thanks that the horseback riding scene made it in), while also making a few tweaks to make the whole thing more cinematic.
There are small changes like casting Matthew's vampire mother Ysbeau (Lindsay Duncan) with an older actress rather than appearing a tad younger than Matthew like she did in the novel, and then there are the big changes that shift the story in pretty impactful ways.
Here are all the major changes you can expect to see in the screen adaptation of A Discovery of Witches.
Expect more action. Diana's powers in the novel tended to manifest in impressive displays that were surprising, but not necessarily dynamic enough to engage viewers the same way they did readers. To remedy that problem, the series adjust a few key scenes (and even creates a couple new ones) in order to make the discovery of her powers more exciting. The witch wind scene, for example, happens as a confrontation with other witches rather than when Diana is alone with Matthew in order to increase the tension and up the stakes.
Matthew isn't quite so creepy. One of the least likable elements of the first novel in the All Souls series is Matthew's controlling and often violent nature. A lot of it is brushed aside as "darn, those male vampires and their sexy, sexy overprotectiveness," but the series pushed away from that mentality hard. Matthew is still acknowledged as a predator and a force to be reckoned with; he just doesn't rely so much on misogynistic behavior that aims to force Diana to shut up and do as she's told. It's absolutely one of the best changes the series made.
There are plenty of Easter eggs from the sequels. It sure feels like the writers behind A Discovery of Witches knew in advance that they'd be getting a second and third season pickup, seeing as they sprinkled in quite a few hints from Shadow of Night and The Book of Life, the sequel novels to A Discovery of Witches. Viewers will get fun clues about why Diana's powers are so special ((keep your ears peeled for a Weaver mention) as well as why certain vampires are so eager to get their hands on the Book of Life, two things that didn't get a lot of development in the first book.
The Congregation plays a bigger role. In the novel, the Congregation is a council of three witches, three vampires and three daemons that act as both a peacekeeping force and the disciplinarians of the supernatural community. While Diana and Matthew only have a vague notion of the Congregation, plus a few dicey run-ins in the novel, the Congregation members play a much larger role in the series. It's an interesting and ultimately enriching new detail of the story that makes the consequences of Diana and Matthew's forbidden love a little more tangible.
Satu (Malin Buska) is a much bigger player. And thank the good lord above for that. Satu made a "blink and you'll miss it" appearance in the novel, but thanks to a few key changes in her story, the series was able to highlight her character to a much greater degree. While she's a straight-up villain in the novel, expect to find yourself feeling a little more conflicted about her and her motives in the series.
Sophie (Aisling Loftus) and Nathaniel (Daniel Ezra) come in much earlier. Daemons, in general, get a lot more attention in the series, especially when it comes to Nathaniel and Sophie. Rather than have them turn up randomly in the final stretch of the story, A Discovery of Witches introduces them (and Sophie's mission to find Diana) much earlier in the series, turning their storyline into a subplot of its own. Their appearance feels less random than it did in the novel, making it a smart choice, especially considering the roles they'll play later on down the line.
A Discovery of Witches will be available to stream Thursday, Jan. 17 on Sundance Now and Shudder.
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