Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
4 stars - mixed emotions, but part 2 is in my queue, so good enough for that
ALR Green - some animals get killed by vampires, but others fare better

Well, this was certainly a mixed experience. At times I wanted to toss the book aside in frustration. At times I couldn't stop reading. I did like it enough to mark the second volume of the trilogy as "to read," so there's that.

Diana Bishop. Scholar. Witch. Mostly scholar. She doesn't want to be a witch and she suppresses her witchy tendencies by exercising... a lot. She spends her days in Oxford's Bodleian Library, hunkered down with obscure texts on alchemy. Not a bad way to live. Actually, pretty darn good, in my opinion.

Sure, there are daemons, vampires, and witches living among humans, but they keep to themselves. No worries. Then, one day, Diana is noticed by a vampire. A shockingly handsome vampire who just won't leave her be. Matthew Clarmont. He's got a thing for Diana and he just keeps popping up and worrying about her. Typical stalker vampire behavior.

Turns out, Diana has stumbled across a particular volume that holds secrets coveted by daemons, witches, and vampires alike. Only Diana can unlock the key to the mysteries inside the book and once she's opened it up, the library starts to fill up with lurking non-humans who all want a piece of her.

Matthew, meanwhile, has a research lab at Oxford where he studies the blood of all two legged beings in search of, well, not sure what. Diana is in danger and Matthew whisks her away to France where Matthew's mother lives in an ancient castle and all will be safe. Or will they? 

Not a bad setup. But here's the thing. I'd characterize the first 300 pages of the book as moving along at a near glacial pace. Boy, oh boy, do these folks drink a lot of tea, sip gallons of wine, go jogging, and change into identical outfits over and over and over and... 

The pace picks up incrementally once the 300 page mark is crested (I would characterize it as merely slow). Matthew and Diana, well, like doesn't everybody know that witches and vampires aren't supposed to fall in love? They've got the entire non-human community in an uproar. 

There is also what I believe to be unintentional humor. Matthew and Diana return to Diana's familial home in upstate New York. Matthew gets the need to feed on human blood. Uh oh. So he takes a quick  hunting trip to Canada. Nom, nom, nom. Canadians. 

How about this...

... it's about our common belief that no one has the right to tell two creatures that they cannot love each other - no matter what their species."

Right on!

Still, I'm giving it four stars. There is enough history to keep me interested. Ms. Harkness has also decided to tell whatever tales she wants about how vampires, witches, and daemons function and she breaks some longstanding rules. Hey, why not? Plus, once the non-human behaviors start heating up, there are some delightful scenes of witchery and whatnot. 

By the last hundred pages, I was pretty sure how the book would end. I was right. Virtual fist shake, Ms. Harkness. 


  1. I consider this series Twilight for grownups. I just brought home the third volume to read.

    Daisy's Mom

  2. You hung in through 300 glacially paced pages? Good for you. (Canadians. Nom nom nom...snort)