Not Your Average Vampire Story: A Discovery of Witches [SPOILERS]
By Jannabee on June 17, 2011
Deborah Harkness' novel, A Discovery of Witches, is not what you would call an average Vampire story. It builds mythology of a different world than we know -- a secret world using history, science and folklore -- and weaves these components into a unusual love story.
In A Discovery of Witches, Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, and from there her life is turned upside down. The discovery of this manuscript (vampires, witches and daemons live peacefully amongst humans in this story) brings out all sorts of supernatural creatures who are desperate to learn about this it, including a statuesque vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Diana soon realizes that the only way to stay safe is to trust Matthew, and soon that trust develops into love. Their love has consequences (did I mention that Diana is a powerful yet spellbound witch?) and they must decide whether or not they can live with those consequences, which ignite a war among all supernatural creatures, instigating the wrath of a powerful organization called the Congregation.
I found this novel very intriguing in the way Harkness weaved history and science to explain the existence of all of these supernatural creatures. I found her ideas regarding the structure of the vampire, witch and daemon DNA so believable, it made me almost a believer that they could exist. I also found all of the history references so extensive and thorough, it made me want to go back and reread my history books. These little factual details I loved, it brought so much realism to fantastical storyline.
Many characters in the book were also interesting (particularly the Clairmont family), unfortunately I often found the main characters Matthew too controlling and Diana a little too weak and smitten once they fell in love. I found their characters more entertaining and well rounded before they become a couple. Often I found my feminist sensibilities being tested (all of the "obeying Matthew" talk drove me crazy, luckily Diana was often too stubborn and too willful to do so, thank goodness). I am wondering if anyone else who read this book struggled with this at points? Towards the end of the book when Diana started to fight back and harness a little of her magical power -- she became more well-rounded to me.
Overall I found this novel to be an enjoying read, however this book is not for the faint of heart; this is the first book of the All Souls Trilogy and often gets bogged down in exposition. The pace through the novel can be a little tedious, but it is definitely well worth the read. The ending made it seem as if the story was just beginning. I would like to see what happens next.
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