Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Publisher:  Viking Adult
Publish Date:  February 8, 2011
ISBN:  978-0670022410  
Pages: 592

Book One of a trilogy:  All Souls Trilogy.  Book Two is due out in 2012 and will be reportedly titled SHADOW OF NIGHT.

My mind keeps wandering back to the world of Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont.  I know it was amazing simply because it makes sense - scientifically and historically.  I was asked to slightly suspend belief, but there was so much history and science involved that it was easy to believe.  Especially since Matthew was studying genetics - my favorite science!

So...Diana Bishop is an American professor on a research trip in England at Oxford. She is a history professor studying alchemy.  Diana knows that her family is full of witches and that she herself is one.  But she refuses to use her powers, going so far as to note how many times she uses her power and getting mad if she goes over a certain limit.  So Diana is hanging out at the library calling up books for her research when she ends up with a weird book.  She can tell it's enchanted, but all she does is lay her hand on it and it opens.  So she uses it and sends it back.  Little does she know that all the beings (witch, vampire and daemon) want that book and no one has seen it or touched it in hundreds of years.  Now they want her to call it up again.  Some of them believe that the book shows the genetics of all three lineages, some believe that it shows their future.

So the three lineages - are they really separate?  That's the question, isn't it?  Are they totally separate from humans?  Another good question.  Let's see:  witches are magical; vampires have near immortality and super senses and speed; while daemons are usually born of human parents, are highly creative and often mad.

One of the beings looking for the book is Matthew Clairmont.  Matthew is a 1500 year old vampire.  Currently he's a genetics scientist, but he's studied a great deal of things in his time.  Matthew starts out wanting the book and ends up wanting only Diana.  However, there is Diana's distaste and fear of vampires to get around as well as the law against relationships that cross the lines between species.

The author, Deborah Harkness is a professor of Western European History at the University of Southern California as well as a very popular wine blogger.  She uses all of her expertise in both areas for this book.  I think that's what makes the whole thing believable - it's got some basis in fact.  Isn't that what's always said about lies?  The best ones are based in fact?  Similar idea.  I read that Ms. Harkness said that she began the book by wondering what vampires would do for a living in our modern world.  Well, working long hours as a research scientist would be dandy, wouldn't it?

I know a lot of us were creeped out by the stalkerish/protectiveness of Edward toward Bella in Twilight.  There was never a good excuse for it and it came off badly.  Matthew is also territorial and protective - however, it's explained using wolves and packs; and Diana is no Bella, she's a grown woman who's been on her own for a long time!  I was never reminded of Edward and Bella, even though some reviewers have stated that this story is Twilight for grown ups.  Let's just toss that idea right out the window.  The two stories are nothing alike.  These are adults with ideas and feelings and they know what they want to do.  They may sometimes be stupid or do the wrong thing, but they are adults.

The intelligence of the writing was a joy to read.  The characters are fully fleshed out and have some real issues to deal with.  The daemons were fun to read about and finding out who, in history, was a daemon was a hoot!  While this isn't listed as a YA book, I think that many YA readers would enjoy it.  It's a bit long, but the story never lags and I spent several nights up way too late as I couldn't put it down.  I cannot wait for the second installment, I really need to know where Matthew and Diana went and how they fare!

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that you mentioned it would work for a YA audience as I've thought that too. I picked it up a while ago and I didn't really get into it the way I wanted to. I'm sort of saving it for a moment when the mood is right.