Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness



It has been so long since I have done a book review I’m not sure if I remember how.  For November we were suppose to read two books, “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness and “A Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman.  I came down with that nasty cold that had been going around so I was only able to finish one of the books before the meeting; this was “A Discovery of Witches.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While we have a few familiar elements, such as witches and vampires, it is a new take on these beings. We also have another class of beings in this book, and they are the daemons.  For millennium these three types of being have worked hard to hide themselves from humans.  The two main characters are Diana Bishop, a historian and a witch, and Matthew Clairmont who happens to be a scientist as well as a vampire.  Diana who is doing research on alchemy asks for a book from the Bodleian Library.  It is most commonly known as Ashmole 782, she soon realizes that the book has a spell cast upon it. This poses a problem for Diana who tries not to use magic to further her research. The reason for this is that her parents, who were both witches, were killed on a trip to Africa, so Diana would rather have nothing to do with magic at all.  But the book proves too tempting for Diana and she breaks the spell, she quickly realizes that the book is a palimpsest, or a manuscript within a manuscript.  But this was not just any palimpsest, where the parchment had been reused and the old writing was showing through.  Diana can only catch glimpses of what the manuscript is hiding.  She soon realizes that there is more to this book than it seems, and that each type of creature is desperate to get a hold of this manuscript which has been “lost” for 150 years. Diana soon realizes that there are more witches, vampires, and daemons in Oxford than she thought possible.  

We follow Diana’s and Mathew’s budding romance which is of course has many twists and turns.  Diana also starts to experience some witch talents that she had been unaware of, such as witch water and witch wind.  These talents are extremely rare, so Matthew, who is a geneticist, tests her DNA and finds out that, she has a marker for almost every single witch talent.  Most witches at the most only have one or two.  Both of Diana’s parents were very powerful witches and obviously passed down most of their talents.  Diana has always been a kind of mystery to the rest of her kind because she doesn’t practice her craft; she would rather rely on just her intellect to produce her scholarly work.  As her and Matthew’s relationship get quite serious the other creatures get quite agitated and so far as to spy on her and break into her apartment.  At this point Matthew is actually afraid of what the witches and daemons might do to Diana he brings her to his “mother” in France. 

I really enjoyed this book and have started the second book.  There were a few aspects that bothered me, such as Diana’s lack of awareness as to how much she actually uses magic her life and her approach to her and Matthew’s relationship.  I had no problem getting right into the book but many other group members said that it took a bit for them to get into the story.



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