A Discovery of Witches: Not Your Daughter's Vampire Novel
Unbeknownst to humans, we share the world with witches, vampires, and daemons. Dr. Diana Bishop, a Yale history professor, is a non-practicing witch who inadvertently attracts the attention of her fellow supernatural creatures when she calls a bewitched manuscript on alchemy from the stacks at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. This simple item on her to-do list thrusts Diana to the center of a cultural universe that she’s tried to avoid all of her life.
The first creature to approach Diana is the 1,500-year-old vampire, Dr. Matthew Clairmont. Diana finds herself in conflict. She comes from a long-line of witches and has been taught prejudice toward other creatures, especially vampires. But at the same time she has an intense desire for Matthew which she can’t ignore. As they grow closer, Matthew urges Diana that the only way they will solve the mystery surrounding the manuscript is to unlock Diana’s magic.
Harkness blends romance, history, mythology, and modern science seamlessly. I particularly enjoy how Matthew, a biochemist at Oxford researches the different creatures on a genetic level. He explains how each species has different sets of chromosomes and that daemons might be a mutation of humans. Matthew also shows Diana that the different magical abilities of witches are genetic traits that can be mapped on a DNA sequence. Thankfully, the author does an excellent job at defining the scientific terms so the reader isn’t running to Google every other page to look something up.
What really sets A Discovery of Witches apart from a typical vampire-romance novel are the themes of prejudice and the importance of family. The author tackles the age-old issue of prejudice without offending the reader. The mythical creatures of witches, vampires, and daemons are used rather than actual races or religions. In the book, all the creatures are raised to be biased against the other species. One thousand years ago a Congregation made up of the three supernatural species was formed to oversee inter-species relations. A pact was even made that prevented the creatures from intermarrying so as “not to attract attention from the humans.”
When Diana and Matthew meet, they must first overcome their prejudice of each other so they can work together to solve the mystery of the manuscript. As they develop feelings for each other, they must battle what’s been ingrained in themselves by their respective families. As they grow closer, their families object. But once the couple makes clear that they are committed to each other, both families accept the relationship and the other family whole heartily.
For me, the beauty of that message is the best reason to read this book.
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