What Are Matthew's Intentions in A Discovery of Witches?

BlogHer Review

Do you believe that witches, vampires and daemons walk among us warmbloods? Do you work with a witch, live next door to a vampire, or buy your morning coffee from a daemon barista? After reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, you might just start looking at the people in your life a bit differently. I know this book made me question some people I’ve known over the years!

A Discovery of Witches had been on my to-read list since February, when I first learned about the book from a friend who grew up with the author and works with the author’s mother in suburban Philadelphia, near where I live. I enjoy a good mystery with a historical fiction spin, and this book contained a great story full of mystery, mysticism, and history, along with Vampires. Yes, A Discovery of Witches seems to be more about vampires than witches, despite the fact that the main female character is a witch. At first I thought the book was going down the path of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, another great historical fiction book regarding vampires. I quickly realized that this story was more personal, sort of an adult version of the Twilight series, but much, much better.

This creepy tale starts off in Oxford, England with historian and Yale professor Diana Bishop preparing for a presentation on her career’s focus of alchemy in the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. She acquires a mysterious manuscript about alchemy in the library that has been missing for years and suddenly her entire life turns upside down. Diana is a direct descendant from Bridget Bishop, the first witch to be executed in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Her mother, a reportedly powerful witch married an equally powerful wizard, so naturally their only child, Diana, possessed the skills of a witch. Diana, however, denied herself her family history and refused to use her witchcraft, with the exception of emergencies, such as an overflowing washing machine or trying to reach a book on a high shelf. From this start, this book takes the reader on an emotional and quite wild ride through the perspective of life via a witch and a vampire.

It was the finding of that missing manuscript that generated great interest in Diana’s life by those who live a mystical lifestyle, leading to life changing events for the historian. Suddenly the male main character in this book, a stunning and brilliant vampire named Matthew, enters Diana’s life for reasons that do not appear beneficial. He quickly has Diana under his “spell” and willing to give up her own life in order to be with him. Their relationship is forbidden because they are different “species,” a possible nod to the need for acceptance in everyday life for differences among people. Other witches, vampires and daemons learn of Diana’s discovery of the manuscript and they attempt to interfere with her life, as well. Lucky, maybe, for Diana, she has Matthew to protect her. I finished the book still wondering what Matthew’s true intentions for Diana was… good or evil?

Diana’s character started out a strong, intelligent, highly educated and in-charge woman. By about two thirds into this story I wanted to toss the book out. Her relationship with the vampire turns this self-confident woman into an obedient, weak female who forgoes logic, all due to lust for a vampire. In the book it is described as love, but frankly, I don’t buy it. (I have an easier time believing that vampires really exist!) In less than a month, Diana gives up her life, her research, and risks her life for a man whose intentions do not appear to be clear, let alone safe. (He is a vampire, and she smells really tasty to him!) While I suppose this romantic part of the story appeals to some, it really triggered anger in me. As a therapist I worked with so many women who would just follow along with whatever they were told by the man in their life that they loved, usually resulting in negative results, sometimes worse. Woman giving up themselves due to love/lust is just one of those things that make me nuts. Just a personal pet peeve!

Despite my anger, I persevered and finished the story, and I am glad that I did! While I did not like the direction the main characters were going in this story, the book was so well written it has me so curious to see where the story will go next. That’s right, this book ends, but the story does not, as it is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. The next book is anticipated to arrive in 2012. I’m hoping that the second book shows the reader Diana’s return of strength and logic!

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