Loved this book! Diana Bishop is a witch who wants to be normal. Her idea of normal is acting and living as a human. Oh yes, as a witch, Diana is not considered a human being. She is a “creature,” as are all the vampires and daemons in Deborah Harkness’ world. While the title leads you to believe the book is centered on witches, it really isn’t. Diana is the protagonist and main focus of “A Discovery of Witches,” but she has her knight in shining armor in the form of Matthew Clairmont, vampire, scientist and wine connoisseur. What I like most about the creatures in this book is they have different characteristics than what we’re used to reading about. Harkness explores the different species from a scientific point of view instead of the magical/mystical folklore usually associated with creatures of the night. The daemons aren’t creatures from hell out to destroy the world. They are artistic and creative beings born to human parents. The vampires are typical vampires—pale, blood drinkers, immortal—but they possess characteristics similar to Stephanie Meyers’ vampires from the famed “Twilight” series and others I’ve read about. And last but not least, the witches are born, magic intact, to parents who are also witches, which is quite an interesting twist. Most often, witches are humans who dabble in witchcraft or become Wiccan. Harkness’ take on the genre is thoroughly enjoyable and original. The similarities don’t detract from the story. They enhance it and bring new light to the vampire genre.
“A Discovery of Witches” is drama filled and romantic but it didn’t have me in tears like some other novels I’ve read. Diana is an active individual. She’s into exercising and her craft (history). Harkness paints pictures so vividly you feel you are on the river rowing with Diana every morning, and jogging along the cobblestone path surrounding her college apartment in Oxford. While Matthew enters Diana’s life out of the blue, he is to become a permanent fixture in her existence. I was rooting for their blooming friendship with every page read.
It took me until chapter nine to finally get into the story. Not to say the opening was boring, but I felt it wasn’t leading anywhere. I kept waiting for the big “Aha! So that’s what’s where this is going!” I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I’ll just say by chapter ten I was smiling and quickly burrowing through the remaining 20+ chapters. The plot became intriguing, unexpected, and educational. I think I’m well versed on the eating habits of wolves and alchemy just from the knowledge “A Discovery of Witches” is filled with. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book for yourself.
“A Discovery of Witches” leaves you with a major cliffhanger and one that is to be expected. But it didn’t click for me until I noticed I was running out of pages and Diana still had no idea what she was going to do about the danger she incurs. This leads me to my big discovery. Always read a book’s jacket. Always. If I had, I would have known this is the first in a trilogy and I will have to wait until 2012 for the next installment. But it’s totally worth it. I enjoyed this book, and I will be re-reading just to be thorough and ensure I didn’t miss any details.