Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I loved this book. Five star, probably can guess that yourself.

This is the first in the All Souls Trilogy. The book follows Diana Bishop, the last descendant of one of the witches killed at Salem. However, she has no desire to use her magic, and wants to do things the "normal" way, through hardwork. She's a historian of alchemy, and the book opens with her doing research in Oxford. While there, she encounters a magical manuscript, a vampire who is a scientist, and a bunch of other daemons, witches and vampires who threaten to throw Diana's "normal" life out of whack.

Within the first ten pages, I could already tell it was going to be a nice read. I normally have an author break-in period, where I get used to their flow and style and that can be up to the first 100 pages. But I didn't need that. I could jump in and enjoy the characters and settings. I very much enjoyed her descriptions of the locations. I really got to have a good image of the reading room after a couple of Diana's days there, and of the Old Lodge from the few appearances it made.

Harkness is a historian by trade, so you get an authentic peak at historians doing research, which I can relate to as I studied history and had to do my own research in archives. I enjoyed the science related moments when we get to see Matthew at his laboratory. I always enjoyed science and history, so these aspects of the book really made me a happy camper.

I'm not usually one for the non-traditional interpretation of vampires, but I really liked how she writes them. She actually addresses the differences between the legends and her "real" vampires at one point, and explains it in an almost scientific fashion. None of the magical creatures (witches, vampires, daemons) are really done in the more traditional way, but they generally fit in with the human population so long as not too much attention is drawn to them. This magical world is a truly believable one to me. Its not a completely separate world, like the more Harry Potter magical world is, but its just a tad different, and intertwinned with the "normal" world, so you could imagine these creatures around your everyday life. This was another aspect I really liked about this book.

I really enjoyed the characters, the have good personalities that make their way through the reading. I really cared about what happened to them, and wanted to keep reading so I could find out. I don't think I've enjoyed a book's characters so much since I read Pillars of the Earth last summer.

And one of the best things: there's a promise of a good chunk of historical fiction in the second novel, scheduled for some time next year. Not that I needed that to convince me to snag it when its out, but it is a nice perk.

A much better witchy read than The Witch's Daughter for me. As much as I enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, I think I enjoyed A Discovery of Witches even more.

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