Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Nook - A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches written by Deborah Harkness.

I must admit...... I loved this book.  I just finished it the other night & was actually saddened when I had to turn it back in to the library.  For me, it was one of those books that you think about when you're not reading it & you just can't wait until you can pick it up again.  The days seemed very long while I waited patiently until the Bachsters' bedtime so that I could get back to the story!

And a little about the story........our protagonist is Diana Bishop, a Yale scholar doing research at Oxford University.  Diana is young, bright, dedicated - not to mention, she's a witch.  But she doesn't want to use her magic, as she blames magic for her parent's death when she was 7 years old.  During the course of her research in Oxford's Bodleian Library, Diana calls up an alchemical manuscript entitled Ashmole 782.  She can tell immediately that it is a magical book, but as she is set to not use magic, she peruses through it briefly, takes some notes, and sends it back to the stacks.  It is here that Diana's life takes a turn, as in the days following her perusal of the manuscript, hordes of vampires, daemons and other witches seem to descend on the Bodleian and everywhere she goes - they are looking to find out what she learned from the manuscript and why she was the one able to find it, as it's been missing for hundreds of years.  It is also at this time that she meets Matthew Clairmont, a 1,500 year old vampire who takes on the task of protecting Diana from the other magical creatures.

Soon, Diana and Matthew start to fall in love, all the while trying to flee the threats on the other magical creatures.  They go to Matthew's home in France, a formidable medieval castle.  There, she meets Isabeau, Matthew's mother, Martre, the vampire servant and Baldwin, Matthew's brother.  Diana slowly becomes ingrained into their family.  Life or death situations arise in which Diana must use her magic - only then does she realize her true potential and power as a witch.

Sometimes after reading a book, I like to check out's site to see reader comments.  I enjoyed this book so much, so I was surprised by so many 1-star reviews (there were lots of 5-star reviews too, but sometimes, you can't help but be curious about the negative reviews).  Most of the 1-star reviewers said that the book was boring, that nothing really happened in the story and that Harkness writes too much about mundane details (like Diana drinking tea all the time).  There is a hint of truth here, but I think it depends on what the reader's "cup of tea" is: I don't mind a lengthy novel with lots of details if it helps me understand the characters better.  In my view, I disagree with the 1-star-ers.  I think there is plenty happening in the plot and at the times that there is no action, the story is moving forward with the romance of Diana & Matthew.  Harkness is a very gifted writer and while the story is lengthy (over 600 pages, I believe) she is able to tell a tale that (at least for me) was intriguing and write characters that are believable.

Now, this doesn't mean that I don't have any qualms about the novel - I actually just have one.  My biggest complaint is in a specific scene, in which Matthew's former vampire lover, Juliet, attacks Matthew & Diana in the woods at Diana's childhood home.  Matthew tries to protect Diana, but gets defeated awfully fast.  Throughout the novel, we are led to believe that Matthew (a knight in the crusades!  A 1,500 year-old skilled predator!) is a large, dangerous, powerful force, but he doesn't even make Juliet break a fingernail in the fight.  He's all defense & is terrible at it.  I realize that Harkness had to put Matthew in peril so that Diana could shine & save the day, but I really think it would have befitted his character if he had been able to put up a better fight.

As for the ending.  I listened to the book on CD and when I had about 5 CDs left to go, I realized there was absolutely no way Harkness was going to be able to wrap everything up in that time frame.  And she didn't - Diana & Matthew embark on a most magical adventure at the end, leaving things wide open for the next book in the series, due out in Summer of 2012 (there will be 3 books all together in the series).  I know, I for one, will be in line and eagerly awaiting to find out what's in store for our heroine and her vampire love.

As I was reading the novel, I couldn't help but think - this is Twilight for grown-ups.  There are also some elements of Harry Potter in it.  While it differs greatly from these stories, there are some similarities.  So if you enjoyed Twilight and/or HP, I urge you to try A Discover of Witches.  It will have you spellbound!


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