Monday, March 7, 2011

A Discovery of Witches

By Deborah Harkness

From the book jacket:

“Deep in the heart of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, scholar Diana Bishop requests a manuscript called Ashmole 782 in the course of her research. Coming from an old and distinguished lineage of witches, Diana senses that the ancient book might be bound up with magic – but she herself wants nothing to do with sorcery; and after making a few notes on its curious images, she banishes it quickly back to the stacks. But what she doesn’t know is that the old alchemical text has been lost for centuries, and its sudden appearance has set a fantastical underworld stirring. Soon, a distracting horde of daemons, witches and vampires descends upon the Bodleian’s reading rooms. One of these creatures is Matthew Clairmont, an enigmatic and eminent geneticist, practitioner of yoga, and wine connoisseur – and also a vampire with a keen interest in Ashmole 782.”

Just my opinion:

This was an intriguing book, to say the least. I found it interesting and captivating and it provided a unique twist on the age-old tale of vampires and witches.

I truly enjoyed some of the characters, such as easy-going and supportive Marthe, a vampire who really doesn’t have much of a taste for reckless slaughter. She would rather welcome you into the home, cook you a wonderful meal and bring you one of her famous cups of tea. She seems to adore Diana from the start and goes out of her way to make her feel welcome and comfortable.

On the other hand, I detested Matthew Clairmont. His arrogance left a sour taste in my mouth, but then again, isn’t that a typical personality trait of a handsome and powerful vampire. They seem to all have it and Matthew is no exception. That doesn’t mean it takes away from the story. On the contrary. Without his excessive nature, the book wouldn’t have been the same.

As far as the main character goes, I’m a little ambivalent. Here’s a strong, independent woman who has always taken care of herself. Diana has spent years making decisions on her own and becoming educated. Yet, Matthew reduces her to a pile of whimpering goo. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there were times I wanted to reach into the book and slap some sense into her. She let him run rough-shod over her, often to the point of emotional abuse. Grrr!

However, the exceptional development of all these characters and the others who are important to the story is what makes it one of the most talked about books of the season. It’s being touted as “Twilight” for grownups, but since I’ve not read that series, I can answer to that accusation!

I will say, though, that I thought the book was a bit over-written. I think the story would have been much more readable if the author had cut out about 100 pages of excess words. Some of the passages were definitely overly descriptive. But I’ve noticed a lot of authors are again writing longer and lengthier novels and I’m not quite sure why that is.

That said, I still liked the book and if you enjoy books about witches, daemons and vampires, you’ll love A Discovery of Witches.

A favorite passage from the book:

Anyone who has read paperback bestsellers or even watched television knows that vampires are breathtaking, but nothing prepares you to actually see one. Their bone structures are so well honed that they seem chiseled by an expert sculptor. Then they move, or speak, and your mind can’t begin to absorb what you’re seeing. Every movement is graceful; every word is musical. And their eyes are arresting, which is precisely how they catch their prey. One long look, a few quiet words, a touch: once you’re caught in a vampire’s snare you don’t stand a chance.

1 comment:

Terri said...

I'm looking forward to reading this. I jumped on the wait list at my local library early, when they only had 1 copy on order. thanks for the review!