A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Debut novelist Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense--a richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
This book seemed daunting at first because it is 579 pages long, but I never got bored with it. It's the story of a woman, Diana Bishop, who just happens to be a witch. She represses her magic most of her life because she thinks it doesn't have a place in her life. She is more concerned with academics and her research on alchemy. However, her magic slips out of her in "little" ways that she thinks are inconsequential. While she is at Oxford in England, she comes across a manuscript that she realizes is enchanted, and opens it when noone had for hundreds of years. This alerted the attention of other creatures around her including a vampire named Matthew Clairmont, a witch named Peter Knox and several daemons hanging out in the library. The rest of the book is about her relationship with Matthew and the consequences of a witch loving a vampire. Since I am a fan of historical fiction, I was intrigued (as Diana was because she was a historian) by the many lives Matthew had lived and the people he had known. As much as he tried to hide it, he had feelings and a capacity to love that you wouldn't expect in a vampire. The blending of Diana's and Matthew's families along with their daemon friends was interesting. My favorite character though had to be Diana's house -- yes, her house. It was haunted by ghosts of her ancestors, but it also had a mind of its own and welcomed and dismissed visitors at will. Some of the things that Diana discovered she was capable of were somewhat fantastic, but it is a fictional story after all. Apparently, "A Discovery of Witches" is the first in a trilogy which explains why it took so long to get close to a confrontation between the collected families and the Congregation -- a tribunal of sorts made up of vampires, witches and daemons -- which attempted to enforce an agreement made hundreds of years ago to keep evidence of these creatures out of the sight of humans. I'm looking forward to picking up the next installment of this trilogy, but I have a lot to think about from this book until then. Also, my book club is reading this for their February selection. I'll be back to update this review with their thoughts after next Wednesday.
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