A Discovery of Witches Cast a Spell on Me

BlogHer Review

I wasn't at all sure I was going to enjoy this book. From the first few pages, it seemed like A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness was written for people who had more knowledge of Oxford and history and libraries and research and science than I had. I felt constantly out of the loop. Those early pages dragged a bit, if I'm to be perfectly honest here.

I didn't really know what the book was about either.  Oh sure, I knew it had something to do with magic and/or witches.  The title told me that much.  I also knew, from the jacket summary, that there was something to do with some ancient, mysterious manuscript called (strangely enough) "Ashmole 782" and a repressed scholar and maybe-witch named Diana.  

But then something interesting happened.  I really started getting into the story.  Suddenly, I found out that the characters were really growing on me and I was falling in love with them and the story that surrounded them.  I don't think I could pinpoint a particular passage in the story where this change happened.  But happen it did.

After that, I could hardly put the book down as I raced through the pages to find out what secret would be revealed next, what action would befall my heroine and the man who was reluctantly the hero, where they would go next.  I became obsessed with it.  And when I re-read the jacket summary (more carefully this time), I saw that this book is in fact the first in a trilogy of books.  And that the next book was scheduled for release sometime in 2012.

For everyone's sake, I hope that's EARLY 2012, and not LATE. 

Listen, I know that this sort of story is very "in" right now.  Vampires as the hero has been done so many times that I'm sure most readers are sick to death of vampires and all things remotely vampire related.  But please, I implore you, do not use that as a reason to discount this book!  Yes, the hero is an impossibly attractive, wealthy, intelligent and utterly beguiling vampire.  And that might make you want to roll your eyes.  But regardless of how you felt about the Twilight novels, put all thoughts of Edward out of your mind and just allow yourself to fall in love.  It's not hard to do!  Because Matthew is no Edward.  He's certainly edgier, for one. But he's also more vulnerable and more... human somehow.

And I think that is what sets this book apart from most other supernatural books of it's ilk: everything in this world feels very real.  Harkness has gone to great lengths to explain how creatures like witches and vampires and daemons could exist in this world alongside humans.  Most fascinating was the revelation of how vampires are made.  If such things interest you, you will totally dig her take on this.  The mostly seamless melding of history, science and the supernatural is one of the most interesting things about this book.  It's fantastic, to be sure, but it's also so grounded.

This book, plainly put, is for grownups.  I doubt many teenagers would have the patience for the slower pace and more scholarly bent. 

Which isn't to say that this book isn't without it's faults.  Harkness takes a long time to get to her point many times during the story.  And then when she finally gets us to the point, everything happens so fast that you find yourself hurrying alongside to catch up. Pacing issues aside, the book is worth it. 

I really don't want to give many details away because that's part of the fun of this book; finding out all the nifty little details hiding here and there and discovering them alongside the affable heroine.  In short, you gotta go pick this book up.  It is a perfect summer read.  Go read it and then tell me what you thought. 

I'll be sitting here, biting my nails, waiting for that next book to come out. 

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