A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – Book Review

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Published by Penguin (Non-Classics) Paperback, an imprint of Penguin

Diana Bishop comes from a family of witches with illustrious lineages, but there are few things she detests more than using magic. Sure, when the washer is threatening to flood the house she might make an exception, but in general she wants to get by in the world on her own merits, not by magic. She is forced to change her attitude, though, when in the course of her research, she accidentally discovers an enchanted and long-lost alchemical manuscript that many in the magical world would kill for. Suddenly, Diana finds herself caught between the witches, daemons, and a handsome vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Now Diana must decide who she can trust and find out if she can control her power, before she is destroyed by forces she does not understand.

Deborah Harkness is a fabulous creator of worlds. Her witch/vampire/daemon mythology is almost instantly engaging, and is spread out enough throughout A Discovery of Witches to keep readers (or me, at least) anxiously reading to figure out the next piece of the puzzle. There is some serious initial shadiness in Diana and Matthew’s relationship that feels a bit Twilightish, but eventually they grow into a greater parity – although there is still some problematic hiding of facts on Matthew’s part that I hope will become less of an issue as the trilogy progresses. I must admit, though, that it adds to the dramatic flair of Harkness’s story to have these things revealed slowly, as Matthew is essentially forced into them.

A Discovery of Witches is an incredibly addictive novel in the vein of The Historian, but with a somewhat faster moving plot, there is even a similar theme of scholarship. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, Shadow of Night. Highly recommended.

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