Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel. Deborah Harkness. Viking: A Penguin Group. February 2011. 592 pp. ISBN #: 97806700022410.


This is not your ordinary story about witches, vampires and daemons!

Diana Bishop’s famous ancestor was executed for being a witch. As a heart-rending consequence of Diana’s parents’ mysterious deaths, Diana has vowed she will live totally as a human, denying her identity as a witch with both usual and unusual powers. Dedicating her life to logic and ordinary living, she is now a history scholar doing research on alchemy texts in the Bodleian library at Oxford. Upon receiving a requested text called Ashmole 782, she realizes either the book is spellbound or there is something about this book that connects with her hidden witch powers. Add to that the reactions of suddenly appearing witches, vampires, and daemons whose animosity and threatening looks and words make Diana’s wish for normalcy an illusion she can no longer ignore.

Into the midst of this reality arrives a handsome, extremely intelligent and old vampire, Matthew Clairmont, who is supposedly pursuing his own research as a geneticist. Initially disliking and avoiding his presence, Diana finally begins to realize he is protecting her from direct attack by the hordes of persons appearing daily in the library who are insisting she recall the text they are desperate to obtain. Then he begins to appear during her running and rowing exercises which seem to be the only way she can stop her natural abilities from emerging with perilous effects on herself as well as others.

Why is Matthew so attracted to Diana and what is behind the interest so many have in this mysterious text lost for centuries which has appeared and again disappeared after Diana’s innocent unbinding of its pages? Finally, when several close calls with death frighten Diana into realizing her lack of control, she accepts shelter first with Matthew’s vampire family in France and then with her own witch family in America.

A Discovery of Witches is so much more than just a supernatural story! Yes there are adventurous thrills for those who love the proverbial accounts of such creatures. But here is an intelligent consideration of the essence of origins, differences, genetic mating and consequences, shared powers defying definition and classification, versions of history holding secret and amazing phenomena, relationships of enmity forced to unite under common needs – both good and evil, the quintessential realities behind the search for the Philosopher’s stone or alchemy, and so much more.

Add to that a sweet, dangerous romance all the more real because of what seems to be its doomed end, and herein is the perfect combination, preciously difficult to adequately encompass in any brief review. This tale is a smart, tense, provocative, and enchanting read you will not want to end and will be relishing long after the last page is turned. This reviewer is so looking forward to the sequel to this amazing novel which will be a best seller!!! Absolutely delightful and impossible to put down!

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book not only for it's supernatural elements but also for the amount of research Deborah Harkness put into its pages. I felt like I was actually there. In Oxford. She was so descriptive. And the book did not have the ending I thought it would. I can't wait to read the next book. I don't know how to give this book the review it deserves without spoiling it for potential readers. The characters are so much more than they seem in the first few chapters.