Sunday, April 10, 2011

What I'm Reading

A Discovery of Witches:  A Novel by Deborah Harkness

This book is so good I could barely put it down once I got into it!  I got back to my vampires and super-natural creatures with this one (obviously!).  This follows Diana Bishop, a descendant of the great Salem witch Bridget Bishop, who was the first woman executed in the Salem Witch Trials.  Diana has determined that she is not going to use magic the way her ancestors have.  Though she hasn't turned her back on it completely.  She limits the number of times she uses magic in a year and this year it's her fifth time (using it to help her get a book off a shelf) that gets her noticed by a 1500 year old vampire, Matthew Clairmont.  Diana and Matthew are scholars, scientists, smart people.  In fact, the author, Deborah Harkness is a history professor.  All of that is evident in this book and those are the parts that were hard for me to get through.  I am really not good at history, don't understand alchemy or mitochondrial DNA, and I'm not intimately familiar with Oxford.  Most of the book is set in Oxford and since I couldn't understand or picture what the author was describing, I was at a disadvantage. 

The author is incredibly descriptive and paints beautiful pictures for the reader.  Sometimes you really just want her to get on with it, though!  I think we could've gotten more of the story told if she was a little less descriptive, but then this book wouldn't be what it is.  What I didn't expect from this was the suspense.  That's what kept me reading - what's going to happen next?!?  It's definitely part romance, too, with Diana and Matthew inevitably falling in love, something that is forbidden given that they are different "creatures".  Then there's the super-natural part.  In Deborah's world, there are three types of "creatures" - witches, vampires, and daemons.  And nobody likes the others.

One thing that keeps the book moving is the forbidden love between Diana and Matthew.  The creature council, made up of three members of each creature, wants to keep them apart.  Besides the fact that cross-creature love is not allowed, they also don't want one of the most powerful witches and one of the most powerful vampires pairing up.  There's also the long lost manuscript that explains the origins of all the super-natural creatures.  Diana is the only one that has been able to unlock the manuscript in hundreds of years.  Everybody wants to use her to gain access to it.

The one thing I didn't like was Diana's evolution.  In the beginning of the book she is an incredibly strong and independent woman, a runner and a rower, a tenured professor at Yale.  As her love affair with Matthew progresses, she seems to become more fragile and dependent upon him and others.  Although some of her trials warrant this, you still want to shake her a bit and say, "Do it yourself!"

I kept looking at how much of the book was left to read, thinking, "There is no way this can be finished in the next 50 pages.  There's no way this can be finished in the next 15 pages."  And it wasn't.  I was left wanting;  there will obviously be a sequel.  Which is wonderful because I can't wait to read more about these characters.  But it also sucks because I know I'm going to have to wait forever!  This book just came out, so I know I'm in for a long wait while the author thoroughly researches everything in her next book.  I think I'm going to jump back in and read it again.  I'm sure there's something I've missed!

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