A Discovery of Witches Is the Perfect Book To Kick Off the Summer
Who doesn’t like to compare a book to another book? I’m about to do it with Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches because comparisons are a terribly convenient shorthand (and it’s also a lovely way to show off how well-read you are. “Ah yes, this book is definitely Crime & Punishment meets Tess of the d’Urbervilles). If I tell you that a book is a cross between The Pelican Brief and Harry Potter, you can probably guess it involves a legal plotline and magic (might I say how fantastic such a book might be? I can’t even imagine; I think I’m on to something here).
Of course, the downside of such a comparison is that if you happen to loathe one or both of the books mentioned, you might discount the new title based solely on that comparison. All of which is to say that when I tell you that A Discovery of Witches makes me think Twilight meets The Da Vinci Code, you should still give it a chance, even if you happen to think one or both of those books are a scourge on the literary landscape. Because really, what I mean by the comparison is that there are vampires and there is a mad dash through history with bad guys on your heels.
And while I fear a book a book that is described as a “novel of epic scope” (hint: that means very, very long), I was sucked in from the first page. As a former librarian, the action beginning in a library was an easy sell, but another page or two later when I discovered that Diana is not only a brilliant historian but a witch, well, count me in. And then, when it’s revealed that Diana refuses to use her witch-y powers. . . I couldn’t put it down.
Diana really carried the book for me – she’s smart and determined and brave, but she is also conflicted, afraid, and stubborn. She makes foolish mistakes. She makes brilliant connections. I know there are plenty of people aggrieved when a character (especially a female one) is too submissive or otherwise weak, but it bothers me just as much when a character is so obviously written to be the opposite of that and I feel as if the author is beating me over the head to show how STRONG, how FABULOUS the main woman is. Diana was neither of those; she just seemed real.
And on the subject of characters, the cast in this book is rather enormous, and yet even my small brain was able to keep them all clear. That marks both a good writer and a book that has completely absorbed me.
Too often I think a book filled with magic gets bogged down in the coolness of the world – the author can’t seem to break away from telling the reader about all the mind-blowing things that characters can do or how the world operates. A Discovery of Witches avoids that all together. The magic and the powers are all secondary to the story and the characters.
This book is just fun – full of adventure, history, magic, romance, and intrigue - exactly the kind of book to kick off the summer.