Friday, August 31, 2012

Spellbound with Starry Eyes. REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)


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-and also a vampire with a keen interest in Ashmole 782.

Equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense, A Discovery of Witches is a novel of epic scope, traveling from the cobbled streets of Oxford to the chateaus and mountains of the Auvergne to a small town in upstate New York.  It also takes us into a rich fifteen-hundred-year history that spans Clovis and the Crusades, the Knights Templar, and the American Revolution.  As Matthew and Diana's alliance deepens into intimacy, Diana must come to terms with age-old taboos and her own family's conflicted history-and she must learn where the modern woman she is meets the source of ancient power that is her legacy.  With a scholar's depth and the touch of a great storyteller, Deborah Harkness has woven a tale of passion and obsession; the collision of magic, alchemy, and science; and the closely guarded secrets of an enchanted world.


I am seldom reduced to the likes of a mooning, star struck teenager.  That sentimentality faded bit by bit in my early twenties, but every once in a while, something comes along (usually a book) that has me lost to the world and humming dreamily as I float through my day to day tasks.  I am so in love with this story that I am considering divorcing my husband and running away with it.  I bought this book a couple of years ago when it was first released.  As a matter of fact, it was the first book I bought upon my arrival in Key West.  I am particularly attached to it, but had wantonly forgotten how beautiful it was until I re-read it last week in preparation for the sequel.

Dear God, it was quite possibly better in its fourth reading (maybe this was the fifth time? I lose track of frequency).  It is so intricate, and beautiful and unforced.  The author takes great care in developing characters and their relationships with each other.  I have read a few reviews that stated, "Oh, this is great, but it is too long and takes too much time to get through."  Nay, I say! Nay!  This is what is so desperately missing from modern fiction, especially the ones of the supernatural variety.  We live in a world of instant gratification and that has slowly crept into the world of literature.  What I find so refreshing about this book is that it takes its time.  None of this 'wam-bam-thank you ma'am' crap that has come to define an entire genre of books.  Brains must be melting at this hokey 'Two Pages in and the Main Characters are Deeply in Love' concept.  This lack of precision is, unfortunately, a predominant theme in many half-hazard Urban Fantasy and Young Adult novels.  Sometimes I feel I could actually vomit from the lack of intelligent emotional development taking place in these books.  *Deep breath, heavy panting*  OK.  The vitriol might be out of my system now, or at least contained under the surface.

The point is simply this: This novel appeals to all five senses...and even the sixth if you are so paranormaly inclined *wink*. It's enchanting, well paced, and thought provoking.  I suppose it does not hurt that it combines all of my favorite things into one sensory explosion: history, magic, witches, vampires, mystery, danger, love.  It is a veritable cornucopia of intrigue and plot build up that does not let you go...even on the very last page.  I want to slip into it, drown, and never resurface.

Oh my God.  I swear I could get a contact high just touching the page.

Just do yourself a favor and read it.


"Give me knowledge of my end and the measure of my days, so I may know my frailty.  My lifetime is no longer than the width of my hand.  It is only a moment, compared to yours."



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