Friday, March 4, 2011
Review: Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.
For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.
Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.
To some degree I felt like what began as an original and fun marketing campaign became overload for me. Everywhere I looked this book was front and center, with early reviews and button contests, which caused me to struggle during those initial pages to immerse myself in the vivid, tightly woven world that Harkness created. Maybe too much of a good thing? I'm not sure. However, once I let go of my expectations and treated this book like I would any other straight off the shelf, I was able to truly enjoy the story. That being said, it was the level of involvement (vampire and witch lore) that kept me reading and eventually the characters caught up, making the book impossible to put down. The devil is in the details and this book has plenty~ vampires that can walk in the sun, lacking the fangs that have launched them to fame, with not a mention of sparkle anywhere! The history between daemons, witches and vampires is beyond involved with the mystery only adding to the intrigue. Each side has a story to tell.
The writing style is vivid and full, all very well done and not frustrating to follow in any way. That, combined with the pacing reminded me of early Anne Rice, rich writing wrapped around deliciously complex characters. Discovery of Witches will appeal to a wide range of readers because it has something for everyone- history, mythology, romance, and magic. I've had the opportunity to share this book with a couple of friends that don't normally read paranormal anything and all have said that they want more from Diana and Matthew. I particularly adored the side character, Hamish, Matthew's daemon best friend and confidant. The entire friendship felt generous and genuine, filled with heartfelt conversation and advice, something you might not always find with a daemon and a vampire, and in this case, comfortable. The same for the yoga class. Don't ask. Just read the book!You won't find any spoilers about the story here. This is one book that you wouldn't want to have ruined by a review.
*This book was reviewed by Anna Dougherty for VampChix, and was given for review by the publishers.