A Discovery of Witches Made Me Have a Supernatural Relapse

BlogHer Review
I thought I’d kicked the habit. Then I read Deborah Harkness'A Discovery of Witches,” and my unnatural addiction was awakened. (Mwah-ha-ha.)

There was a time when I read almost nothing but “supernatural fiction,” even though it tended to scare the socks off me. Back in my day, vampires and their ilk were scary. You did not want them to exist, much less take you to prom or hang out at your local bar and grill. While I was never of the pilgrimage to 1239 First Street variety, I certainly read more than my share of Anne Rice, Dean Koontz and the like.* Then one day, I stopped. Maybe I realized that a good night’s sleep is preferable to jumping out of your skin every time a cow moos. (This is what passes for terror when you grow up in the country.) I don’t remember exactly when or why I stopped reading the stuff, but there came a day when I just wasn’t interested.

Years later, my sister-in-law introduced me to those silly, sparkly vampires, and they pulled me back in. They were nothing at all like Lestat and the gang, but they also didn’t give me nightmares. I think they were gateway ghouls, though, because then I got hooked on the Sookie Stackhouse series. I read them quickly and tossed them aside, each time vowing not to read another and each time grabbing the newest one as soon as it hit the library.

(I have the same problem with junk food. “This is no good,” I tell myself. “It’s empty calories and sodium and bad fats!” And then myself says, “Mmmmmmm Cheetos,” and I snap back to reality 10 minutes later covered in neon orange powder. This Cotton Candy Vampire Genre is the same thing, only with vampires instead of Cheetos. And without the orange powder. Usually.)

Here’s my point -- and I know it’s a long time coming, so thanks for sticking around: I found myself missing the really menacing monsters. And so I stopped reading about the supernatural again. No more monsters for me. (Always more Cheetos for me, sadly.)

Then Deborah Harkness starting hanging around my corner of the internet. And rather than pulling my collar up tightly and picking up my pace, I decided I could handle it. Just one book can't hurt, right?


Maybe it can't hurt if it's an awful book. If it's awful, it'll strengthen my resolve. Right? Right!

Except that I probably shouldn't have banked on A Discovery of Witches being awful. The story centers on a witch who doesn’t want to be a witch and a vampire who doesn’t seem to mind being a vampire, and their adventure starts where all the best adventures do: The library. Seriously. The witch accidentally summons a very old book, and then all sorts of creatures come into the picture and a bit of mayhem eventually ensues.

I loved the importance of the library (because the library is pretty much my favorite), and I loved that the vampire actually does something productive with all the time on his hands (because I love an industrious guy). It was the “eventually” part that I had some trouble with. “A Discovery of Witches” takes its time building steam, but once you get to the adventure it’s very hard to stop reading. It stands to be a great introduction to a solid series. But I’m not sure how I feel about it and whether I should let myself get attached. The book’s tone feels more serious than Charlaine Harris’ True Blood series, there’s a lot of impressive-sounding sciencey and research-ish talk, and there aren’t any magical baseball games. But it’s still witches and wizards and other things that go bump in the night, some of which or whom are pretty frightening, and I told myself I’d stop it with that stuff. And my resolve is strong. So although I really, really liked A Discovery of Witches, I will not read the sequel.

Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t wait for the next one.

*Is it acceptable to lump them together as “supernatural fiction”? They both write about Weird and Highly Unlikely Stuff, so I’m going to say yes.