Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness

This is a wonderfully magical and compelling book. If all you know about vampires comes from the Twilight series, and all that you know about witches, wizards, and demons comes from Harry Potter, I'd definitely encourage you to give this book a chance.

Diana Bishop is a witch, descended from a long line of witches dating back to the Salem trials. But after her parents were killed tragically in Africa when she was young, Diana has done everything she can to avoid using her magic. (She doesn't think putting a spell on the washing machine to keep it from flooding counts.) Diana is a famed scholar and historian, doing research on alchemy at Oxford. One day while reviewing resources at Oxford's Bodleian Library she encounters an historical alchemical manuscript which provides secrets to the origins of witches, vampires, and demons. The manuscript is enchanted, and somehow Diana is able to break the spell briefly, which brings her to the attention of many who want the manuscript for their own, including Oxford geneticist Matthew Clairmont, who happens to be a vampire. Diana finds herself drawn to Matthew, which causes frictions between witches and vampires long hidden in history to come to the surface, and they encounter many a person (and creature) looking to do them harm.

This book really fascinated me. Deborah Harkness created truly vivd characters that transcend the typical stereotypes of witch or vampire yet retain some of the familiar characteristics we've come to know. The story is part epic adventure, part fantasy, with even a little soap opera thrown in for good measure, yet the action and story development never stop. I really found myself wondering what the next step was in Diana and Matthew's relationship, and hope Harkness will revisit her characters in a later story. If you're at all intrigued by this type of book, read A Discovery of Witches. Definitely a terrifically compelling romp.

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