Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches
By Deborah Harkness
Published 2011 by Penguin Books
579 Pages

A Discovery of Witches is an annoying yet fun read that immediately got my attention when I learned that the protagonist, Diana Bishop is a professor of alchemical history at Yale. Even more intriguing is when she finds a bewitched manuscript in Oxford while doing research there for a year. Many different kinds of creatures show up throughout the story, proposing many different real and possible supernatural conflicts.

Her witch powers have been sparked when coming across the manuscript, having been left untamed and un-mastered for far too long. She must embrace her destiny albeit reluctantly with the help of vampire, Matthew Roydon or is it Matthew de Clermont? Once sucked in, a reader cannot help but wonder about the many layers of this mysterious, handsome, yoga practicing, wine loving vampire. Does his ulterior motive of finding the manuscript get the better of him? Why does he want it? What's the Congregation? Does he stick around Diana because he cares for her, because he realizes she's the key to finding the manuscript, or both? What's so important about this manuscript?

The story moves a bit slowly after the first 100 pages as the focus shifts away from the manuscript and towards the development of Matthew and Diana's relationship. There is also a recurring argument/conversation Diana has with Matthew and her aunts about her (annoying) unwillingness to learn to master her powers, yet the obvious need for her to do so. The rehashed conversation got some eye roles and could've easily been changed to show character development rather than a character remaining stagnant.

For all of the annoying details, there are some surprisingly charming ones as Neda Ulaby explains humorously in her A Discovery of Witches review for NPR Books. As much as I struggled to get through the fantasy and mystical creatures, I was so intrigued by the ending that I rushed out to get the sequels at the local book shop.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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