A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness
the Kindle Edition

In a world over-run with vampire books and movies, how could I stomach one more? In a moment of madness, I downloaded A Discovery of Witches to my Kindle, and then let it sit, unable to deal with the another shimmering, glimmering, glamouring, growling, sexy vampire lover. I 'fess up to having really enjoyed Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice's ground-breaking novel that, along with Frank Langella's sexy and sophisticated undead lover, started the whole thing; and if Lestat wasn't exactly a romantic hero, he was a lot more fun than Nosferatu when it came to boyfriend possibilities.

But by the time the Twilight series came along, either I was too old, the genre was too tired, or Edward was too, er, dead, but I could only flog myself through one book, just to say I did. So when I found this one, I wasn't sure I really wanted to read it, even though the description sounded intriguing.

It certainly had all the elements of a good story: an historian at Oxford who just happens to be a witch, stumbles upon a bewitched manuscript that has been "lost" for centuries, thus sparking a series of ever-more-dire events, not the least of which is her romance with arch-enemy, the Vampire Matthew Clairmont.

Turns out there are four "kinds" inhabiting earth: humans (well, we knew that!), vampires, witches, and daemons (those brilliant, odd, hyper, manic-depressive types who wear strange clothes and create poetry and symphonies and the like). Vampires, witches, and daemons don't like one another, but have a Congregation, a sort of U.N. for supernaturals that keeps the peace.

Needless to say, by falling in love, Diana (our witch heroine) and Matthew, have broken the rules and nobody is happy with them. It's war.

What's fun about this book is that author, Deborah Harkness, has either done her homework or is truly a polymath. She has Matthew and his kin delving into the historic DNA of supernaturals, trying to find the whys and wherefores of their powers and traits - and she explains this research with clarity and even a certain plausibility.

She takes Matthew and Diana riding, and understands the finer points of dressage. She knows wines; she has characters speaking Occitan, an ancient Romance language (spoken by her ancient vampires, naturally!); she is familiar with the inner workings of Oxford and its colleges; she has clearly seen old manuscripts and knows how they are handled; and if she has not traveled to the places in her book, then she has an amazing imagination.

Her heroine can be a bit tiresome--she is a bit of the standard issue "why on earth would an eternal creature with a perfect body, immense mental powers and astounding insights be so preoccupied with this ordinary, bull-headed, frumpy woman." (See Twilight, Bella.) But Matthew is original; he doesn't shimmer, he's flawed but valiant, and thus far, there is no hint of a love triangle, which I write with a sigh of relief.

The book will continue on as a trilogy, with the second installment due out this summer. I will keep reading!


Popular Posts