Just finished reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I would like to state from the start that I am not a fan of vampires, be they present in books, movies, tv shows or politics. I know I am probably in the minority, given the current plethora of vampires everywhere you look. And if the book had been titled, "A Discovery of Vampires", I most likely would not have purchased it.
|from Viking, The Penguin Group copyright Deborah Harkness, 2011|
Our plucky heroine, Dr. Diana Bishop, is a historian with a special interest in Alchemy...its history, roots, practiioners and processes. Dr. Bishop is also a witch. She is not happy about this inherited trait and tries her best to ignore it. She lives in a world of witches, vampires, and the odd daemons. These creatures do not play nicely together, and there is a tradition of loathing and violence between the species.
Now, we have an ancient, bewitched alchemical manuscript and things get hairy. Suddenly Diana is surrounded by interested parties of the creature-kind who want to get their hands on this manuscript, but cannot touch it until the bewitched book is released from its spell. Enter the vampire, Dr. Matthew Clairmont. Very tall, very pale, and very handsome. Also very ancient. And he practices yoga! The fireworks between Diana and Matthew set off a wary collaboration between the two that leads, you guessed it, to a serious romantic involvement. An involvement that is strictly forbidden by the mysterious Congregation, leading to bigoted responses from all creatures.
The book changes locations, introduces new characters throughout and generally keeps the reader's interest. I found the middle of the book bogged down a bit, and was anxious to get into the heart of the story. The pace does pick up again and Diana has to face terrible ordeals, as well as shocking revelations about her witchiness. Her parents were killed when she was a child (shades of Harry Potter), she is forced to learn how to deal with new, awakening powers, and throughout it all is her growing love for the vampire, Matthew despite his ferocious temper and the possibility that he could take a bite out of her at any moment.
I enjoyed the world that Deborah Harkness has created, loved the mystery she has fashioned and the majority of her characters and subplots were quite fascinating and real. Though I wonder how her vampire could possibly have known and been friends with some of the most famous people throughout history and continents.
You will like this book, just suspend belief a bit, which readers of this kind of fiction must do anyway. I look forward to reading the second installment of this trilogy which is due out sometime in 2012.