A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

21 May

I was laid up in bed this past week with some pregnancy-related not-fun-stuff, so I had oodles of time to myself. What does someone like myself do when they’re prone with a lot of time on their hands? Yup, I read (as I’m sure most of you would do as well in a similar position). It was a perfect time to tackle Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, a book that had been on my TBR list since I first heard buzz about it a year or so ago. I’d also recently emailed with some close friends about our next book pick (we refer to ourselves as a “book club,” but for the most part, we get together and eat and cackle, and sometimes books come up). A Discovery of Witches came up, and I jumped on the bandwagon. After pounding through this big boy (579 pages), I’m really glad I crossed this one off my list. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be, but that’s not a bad thing.

*Brief interlude: Jason Mraz’s I Won’t Give Up just came on the radio and I’m rapt. If my ovaries could request a song, it would be this one. Ok, interlude done.*

Diana Bishop is an American scholar, a witch who suppresses her gifts, and is currently in a lot of danger. While spending a year as a visiting professor in Oxford, she stumbles across an enchanted alchemical manuscript while in the library. No big deal, except that as soon as that happens, she starts to notice some very mysterious characters following her about, including some off-kilter daemons, some seriously scary witches, and a vampire by the name of Matthew Clairmont. As a witch who has shunned all magic from her life, Diana can’t figure out why both the manuscript and these creatures have come into her life. Soon, though, she realizes that her life is in danger and she can only seem to trust a very unlikely ally – Matthew Clairmont. Together they thwart attacks and creatures of varying degrees of sinister intent, all while discovering exactly what kind of connection they have to each other.

You know what I didn’t realize? This is book one of a trilogy. Major duh. Four-fifths of the way through, I was getting all impatient, thinking “come on! We need resolution to all this, don’t we?” Um, no, that’s why it’s part of a trilogy. But once I figured that out, it was smooth sailing. There were parts of this book that I loved, and others that weren’t my favorite, but didn’t detract from my enjoyment. For instance, Matthew is a scientist, Diana is a historian of science, and a lot of the mystery of the book centers around an alchemical manuscript: hence, a lot of science talk. That’s cool and all, but sometimes I got lost. Science is not my forte. Also, I felt like this book actually consisted of two books: a mystery/literary thriller that took place in Oxford prior to Matthew and Diana going to his ancestral home in France, and a paranormal romance that took place after Matthew and Diana commit to each other in France. I mean, I like both kinds of books, but I was kind of on board with the whole literary thriller thing. Diana was pretty awesome during the first half of the book – she is a master in her field, not intimidated by the various creatures of the night spying on her, and relies on herself to get herself out of trouble. Once she and Matthew go to France, however, it got a little Twilight-esque for me. Maybe I’m just a little over the urbane, sophisticated, incredibly controlling vampire boyfriend. Oh, I sound like I’m all down on this book, and I’m really not – I completely enjoyed Matthew and Diana’s commitment to each other, the entire cast of minor characters was great, and I definitely want to know what happens in the next book. And Diana does do some pretty amazing magical things in the latter half of the book…I guess I just got bogged down with all the relationship talk. Now that I’m writing this, I can’t believe I got impatient with relationship stuff – that’s what I’m all about! Must be an off week for me.

Looks like the second in the trilogy, Shadow of Night, is coming out this July. Well, color me pleased. Can’t wait.

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2 Responses to “A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness”

  1. Ang May 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I didn’t realize this was a trilogy until I was almost done the book, too. I gave it 3/5 stars. I found it OK, but not the best thing I’ve ever read. I’ll be reading the rest of the series, though.

    • Amanda May 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

      Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one who missed that! I couldn’t figure out what my hangup was with the second half of the book…maybe it just could have been edited down a bit? I still really enjoyed it and like you, I’ll be reading the next one.

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