Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Recommended Age: Adult with crossover appeal, 15+
The first in a series of adult novels that are filled to the brim with details that place the magical world directly in to modern day Oxford. The story of reluctant witch and keen academic of alchemy, Diana Bishop, begins in the dusty and mysterious setting of the Bodleian library. For those missing Hogwarts these libraries feel wonderfully familiar. Likewise fans of Pullman’s Lyra will get a chance to explore more of the city, running and rowing through this antiquated world. And fans of conspiracies in Wicked will enjoy the magical plotting.
In the library Harkness brings the four species of creature into direct contact; human, witch, vampire and demon. When vampire Matthew de Clermont spies Diana using magic, their paths become crossed with consequences only few with the gift of presight could have foreseen.
The book is woven together with a cast of intriguing supporting characters; scientists and scholars at Oxford, and family intrigue revealed in snippets from Diana’s Aunt Sarah and her partner Emily, a French castle dwelling vampire family, and a covenant of creatures.
Of course a novel including star-crossed characters such as Diana and Matthew, a witch and a vampire, must involve a romance. This is a slow unfurling courtship that twists and turns, sometimes dangerously. At times the dialogue can be clichéd, but for the most part it sweeps the reader along into the spell of fated and forbidden love. Beginning with books, yoga and wine. The sequel pokes gentle fun at the timing of publication alongside the final installment of the Twilight film saga.
Be warned that the books are lengthy ones, almost 600 pages each, and are a little slow to start. I found myself getting frustrated with a few scenes that were repetitious. However once the plot gets going it is an exciting and fast paced adventure which keeps you guessing, and once you finish book one then book two Shadow of Night is a must read.
Here the adventure heads back to Tudor London, and a set of infamous playwrights, pirates and spies.