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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Have you ever read a 600 page book and, once getting to the end, wish there was more?
Then you haven’t read “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness.

I would have entitled this “Twilight: Done Right”, only there’s so much more to this book than the whole forbidden love with a vampire thing- so I didn’t want anybody to get the impression the two are anywhere near related. Sorry, Stephenie Meyer, you got nothing on this.

It all starts out with me wanting to strangle the main character. Seriously. Diana Bishop got on my nerves in the beginning. She’s a witch from a rather powerful family who is descendant of the first to be put to death at the Salem witch trials and whose parents were found murdered in Africa presumably over something to do with their magic. Hence, Diana has sworn off magic and the whole witch thing for good and became a Historical researcher to get away from it all…

…but this wouldn’t be a very good story if she was successful at that. While in the Oxford’s Bodleian Library working on alchemical research (yea…nothing associated with magic there…sarcasm sarcasm), she comes across an enchanted manuscript that calls to her own magic, and when she opens it, it of course scares her and she immediately sends it back to the shelves. But it’s apparently a very powerful, enchanted volume. Now every witch, vampire, and daemon within a 100 mile radius is flocking to the Library (yes, they live among us- us humans are just too stupid to notice them as anything but “odd” or “sexy” in the case of the vampires) because apparently this is a very important, much sought after book that could contain the entire past and future of vampires, witches, and daemons. And each wants their hands on it for different reasons.

The main person the opening of this book has called is our romantic lead: the tall, dark, and handsome vampire, Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist working both academically and privately in his own laboratory.  When they first meet, Diana has *gasp!* used her magic to pull down a book and “OMG! OMG! OMG! I NEVER SHOULD HAVE DONE THAT NOW THERE’S A SCARY VAMPIRE WATCHING ME AND I RAN INTO HIM AND NOW HE SEEMS OBSESSED WITH ME AND NOW I HAVE TO RUN!” (I told you I wanted to slap her in the beginning. She starts out with this naive just-ignore-it-or-run-from-it-and-it-will-all-go-away philosophy).

But Matthew won’t let her ignore it or run away from it and slowly but surely starts to earn her trust, and soon her admiration and devotion as their relationship evolves from protector and victim to protector and partner. And Diana begins to deal with what she’s been running away from all her life and shows a lot of courage and bravery in the face of the dangers both recalling this book and falling in love with the vampire it has brought on.

But don’t think that’s all there is to this. Quite far from it. Deborah Harkness has created a mesmerizing world of the three creatures: witches, daemons, and vampires. At first I was a little skeptical: especially whenever Matthew takes Diana to his house for yoga lessons involving “Yoga with the Creatures”.  What kind of book IS this?

But soon Harkness brought other things into the mix and brought together a love story with an adventure story rich with historical details and actually gets you to think realistically about this whole idea of what it would mean to be a witch, a vampire, or a daemon, what it would be like to live in this world like that, what their histories have been, what the future holds for them, how they are organized, etc.

Even though the book did contain 600 pages, and there’s so much I could say about it all, I don’t want to write too much for fear that I will give something away – because once I got over the first somewhat slow and clichéd beginning, it soon became something entirely engrossing and mesmerizing.

You meet rich, intricate characters as the story unfolds and you begin to see things are much more complicated than they first appeared to be: such as Matthew’s family (mother, brothers, maid), Diana’s aunt and her girlfriend, Hamish, Matthew’s best friend and highly successful financial advisor of a daemon. You see the distrust between species. You see how a lifespan of 1,500 years allows one to make mistakes, be wounded from those mistakes, and then heal and move on from those mistakes: but how it brings about one whose famous for keeping secrets and being complicated as all else.  You see how power and politics play into the world of daemons, witches, and vampires. You learn exactly what it means to be a vampire- with their genetic transformation, predator instincts, and lifespans to endure. Or what it means to be a witch vs. a truly powerful witch: the difference between internal magic and spells/incantations.

Secrets and lies are uncovered. New discoveries are made. New horrors are unveiled. There’s a house that thinks and acts on its own! And after the initial introduction, I couldn’t put the damned thing down- it was one surprise after another, and it felt like I was really there, really LEARNED something along with Diana and Matthew.  Each page brought some new surprise, each chapter brought something new to think about.

And just when the action was really getting started- The End. You have to wait for book 2.

I don’t know how much this holds in interesting material for the guys. Probably not quite as enjoyable for the male gender. It really is a romance book, I can’t downplay that. But it’s a highly intelligent, historically rich romance book, and for that I give it a lot of credit. And wish the second damn book was out already!!

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2 Responses

  1. You certainly have me intrigued. I admit to being a huge Twilight fan, but liking the series has actually crosses me over to trying out more fantasy and sci-fi books. I have this book on my list to read on my kindle.

    The only thing is that I’m impatient when it comes to waiting for the next book in a series. When is the next one due to come out?

  2. So far, from what I’ve read from her interviews, she is “working on writing the second book now” and it should be available “some time next year”: I can’t find an exact date yet…which frustrates me, too, because she left off JUST as it was getting good!

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