Monday, October 31, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Diana Bishop is an American scholar studying alchemy at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Her focus is the history of science, which she hopes will help her repress her witchy tendencies, but magic just won’t leave her alone. First, a powerful ancient text appears in her pile of to-read tomes. Then, witches and demons crowd into the library, all pretending to research and study but all obviously focusing on Diana. Finally, a shockingly beautiful vampire, with cold flesh but steamy eyes, begins a dangerous cross-species flirtation. She knows he only wants one thing—the magical book! Or . . . is there something about Diana?

A Discovery of Witches is both a bit purple and a bit wooden in prose and plot. It’s like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander crossed with a Kim Harrison or a Charlaine Harris—you’ve got the scholarly atmosphere and historical allusions, plus witches, demons, vampires, and humans all living in uneasy proximity. The book could have been really good—and maybe you’ll think it is. For me, the romance was not believable—both Diana and her vampire kept thinking “no,” and saying “yes,” which became rather predictable after a while. I get it, your passions are overwhelming your better judgment! Enough already! I felt the weak romance undermined the plot-development and world building.

However, I suspect many might enjoy the “American in Oxford” storyline and the appeal of the devastatingly attractive undead lover. I would recommend A Discovery of Witches to those who enjoy a gentle paranormal romance or a romantic fantasy set in academia, and to those who have a little more patience for romantic tropes.

1 comment:

  1. I loved it when Matthew put an arm on Diana's chair and one arm on the table in front of her to protect her from an evil wizard - that's when I knew I was totally in love with him and so was Diana. This is also when I knew I liked the book regardless of the endless dribble about obscure textbooks, and manuscripts which I am so not interested in. This love story was so intriguing and worth reading the book for, I even read the parts about Darwin and evolution which were so uninteresting I wanted to turn the page but when I did try to do that the author had written some important information into the dribble so I would have to eventually go back and read it anyway.