Why Vampires Make Bad Boyfriends
A ridiculously long life, past lovers and a disconcerting wish to suck her blood are all obstacles for reluctant witch Diana and the mysterious vampire Matthew in A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness The novel opens with a tingly discovery for the wonky academic researcher, who is determined not to use her magic after a bad childhood experience. And it appears she might have been right to keep her magic under wraps when a little rule-bending to get a book down off a high shelf alerts the vampire in the library to her true powers.
This debut novel is a hefty 579 pages and the first in the All Souls Trilogy. As such, it fulfills on its promise to leave the reader hanging and wishing the next book was already out. While long on description (particularly of food and wine -- understandable since Harkness is also a popular wine blogger), it's also filled with "scientific" explanations of the genetics of vampires, witches and daemons (apparently daemons are very smart but instable humans -- their specific differences were never quite apparent to me). The science behind the creatures was the most compelling part of the story for me -- otherwise, the vampires seemed to hold to Twilight vampire rules, with the exception of dazzling: they didn't sleep much, felt strong familial bonds with younger vampires they made, lived in a coven-like situation and didn't hold democratic elections to determine their ruling parties. I suppose it should come as no shock that beings that have been around for thousands of years wouldn't send out absentee ballots, but I keep hoping for some less medieval leadership practice in vampire novels, particularly from vampires who text each other.
Though what happened to Diana's parents wasn't entirely solved in this novel, I get the idea it's foreshadowing for the rest of the trilogy. I really enjoyed Diana's aunts, Sarah and Em, a couple balanced in their differences and endearing in their affable witchiness. I could've done without most of the vampires and their protect-you-or-drink-your-blood coldness, but again, Harkness seemed to be following Established Vampire Rules for their personalities.
I was glad Diana had her own powers, as her vampire's desire to constantly keep her inside and well fed like a pet got old quickly. There were many strong female characters in A Discovery of Witches, but I really look forward to Diana coming into her powers in future novels, as she may turn out to be the most formidable of them all.