Finally reading A Discovery Of Witches. And loving it!

 

A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness

 A Discovery of Witches caught my eye in the spring, when BlogHer Book club was reviewing it. I didn't have time to tackle it then- I would have had to read during the Book Expo. Which wasn't going to happen. This is the kind of story that draws you in, makes its world and the characters so immediate, that it's best to read with minimal distractions. I zoomed through it in a few days, torn between wanting to spend every second reading, and wanting to savor my wandering through the interesting blend of academics and magic Harkness sets up.

There are two more books in the works, I believe. I won't spoil plot, but I will say, the last few pages are somewhat unresolved. (Not jarringly so, like the way Blackout really needs to be read with a copy of All Clear ready at hand.) Some people like to know this before they start reading.

There was so much I loved about this book. I love the characters, both as individuals, and in terms of the world Harkness sets up. There are witches, vampires and daemons, moving among humans and trying to stay unnoticed.Mingling with humans to varying degrees. There are tension between the three sets of supernatural creatures, mistrust of one another's history and motives.

When the story begins, Diana Bishop, the last in a line of legendarily powerful witches, is studying the history of alchemy at Oxford's Bodleian library. Not to make herself a better witch. Far from it. Since her parents died when she was a girl, Diana has wanted nothing to do with magic. She's a college professor and an academic, studying alchemical symbols for their relationship to science, ignoring her aunts' protestations that training her magic is her birthright. Diana doesn't want magic in her life, except grudgingly. A spell here and there, to fix the washing machine, to open a stubbornly sealed old book.

But... the stubbornly sealed book, Ashmole 782, is the beginning of much more magic getting tangled up in Diana's life. Vampires, daemons and other witches, start to notice, and to threaten, Diana. One of the creatures keeping an eye on Diana is the mysterious and imperious Matthew Clairmont, a vampire studying biology at the university. (A vampire biologist! I love the mental image.)

I think I enjoyed this book more for its worldview and its mythology, than for the central plot surrounding Diana and Matthew. I like the combination of academia and the supernatural. I liked the homey touches of Diana's aunts, worrying about her and welcoming trick or treaters on Halloween. And I bought into Harkness's esoteric suspense. Questions about having, and interpreting the ancient text Diana discovered drive the tensions of the plot, even threatening Diana's life. So- the danger and the character alliances, even war metaphors, hinge on buying into some odd premises. Prejudices and alliances between witches and vampires, their history of conflict, and the idea that a text could pose that much of a threat.

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