A friend lent me Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches some time ago, because the subject matter seemed right in my wheelhouse: witches, vampires, England, forbidden love, etc. Due to the length and the need to make it to 52 books I put it off for some time, but now that we’re entering the final stretch of the year I felt comfortable enough taking on a lengthier book. I won’t say that I think the book merits its length, but I did enjoy it and will definitely check out the next in the series (my friend lent me that one too).
Discovery takes the reader to Oxford, where Diana Bishop is studying alchemy in the famous Bodleian library. One afternoon she requests a manuscript that she finds is bewitched and that’s when her life starts to get interesting. Diana is the last in a long line of Bishop women hailing from New England, all talented witches in their own right. Having lost both her parents as a young child, Diana has decided she wants nothing to do with her witchy heritage and for 30-some years has done everything possible to avoid it; witchcraft certainly didn’t save her parents and may have had something to do with their murder, so why on Earth would Diana take up the torch? When the manuscript Diana is studying starts to ‘speak’ to her she decides immediately to send it back and ignore it permanently, but the rest of the supernatural world has other ideas. Soon enough other witches, daemons and vampires are crowding the tables in the Bodleian in hopes of catching a glimpse of a long-lost, long-sought manuscript and the method in which the witch was able to grasp it. Among Diana’s watchers is Matthew Clairmont, a centuries-old vampire with (naturally) handsome looks and a fiercely protective nature. Soon enough, the two fall in love and shenanigans ensue.
I liked this book but, I give it 3.5 stars because though it’s entertaining and the writing isn’t bad or anything, it’s just too long. This is 580 pages of tiny print. A LOT is crammed into this novel and I wondered if a lot of expository, historical stuff couldn’t have been edited out. Perhaps for more scientifically inclined folks it was more interesting but any of the descriptions of Diana’s research I skimmed over – and there’s plenty to be had. Some of the scenes with Matthew and Diana are repetitive, though their courtship is charming. The characters themselves are for the most part well-developed, with the exception of Diana’s aunts in America. It might be just me, but I felt no connection to them at all. I like Diana – she’s independent and can take care of herself, for the most part, and doesn’t let her new boyfriend (born about 1500 years previously) run all over her. Matthew can be a smidge clichéd, but he isn’t as creepy as say, Edward Cullen, so I’ll allow it. Overall this book is entertaining enough and ends with a cliffhanger, so I’ll be checking out the second in the series soon.