Deborah Harkness Creates the Perfect Potion

BlogHer Review

A Discovery of Witches turned out to be the perfect potion, seemingly made of a some of the last decade’s greatest hits: a dash of Harry Potter, a smidge of The Time Traveler’s Wife, and a pinch of The DaVinci Code. Don’t get me wrong, this work is most uniquely its own, but there were glimmers of each of these other pop-culture phenoms included in its intricately woven plot.

Deborah Harkness who, judging by the book jacket bio, is fascinating in her own right, has conjured a completely fantastical work of fiction that I found hard to put down. I always feel like a good book is one in which I develop such concern for the characters that I think about them when I’m not reading and by that standard, this book was great. It might be because I read a lot at bedtime, but I had dreams about these people! And while I saw similarities with the books I mentioned above, this story was vastly different than anything else I’ve read.

Harkness took the witchcraft of the Harry Potter series a step further by introducing the world of vampires and daemons, which immediately made this book seem much more sinister than Harry ever did. I always marveled at how clever the Harry Potter series is, but this book felt smarter. Maybe that’s because the characters are, in fact, brilliant in their fields, studying at such hallowed institutions as Yale and Oxford, or because Harkness drew upon her own areas of expertise to provide a rich tapestry of historical references that grounded the book much more in the real world; whatever the reason, it turned out I really liked this smart take on such (I believe) an impossible tale. The Time Traveler reference is much more obscure, but reveals itself in time as does the similarity to The DaVinci Code. I’m not a spoiler kind of gal, so that’s all you’re going to get on those topics. However, I’m here to tell you that if you enjoyed those, you should read A Discovery of Witches.

At first I wasn’t sure how this story would sit with me, considering its slightly darker tone but after just a few pages of the author’s perfectly descriptive words, I was hooked. In fact, I’m really hoping maybe there’s a sequel or two on the horizon. This book will appeal to such a large audience -- mystery seekers, romance lovers, historical fiction aficionados -- that I can think of many who might want to borrow my copy.

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