Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: paranormal fantasy.
When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft.
Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist.
Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…
I first read A Discovery of Witches several years ago – probably when the paperback was first published. And I liked it a lot! I bought the second book of the trilogy and then got stuck about a quarter way in and never finished reading it. Since I’m making an effort to finish more series, and since I already own 2 out of 3 books, I decided to give it another go.
First of all, I have to say I loved the worldbuilding in this one. The magical creatures (witches, vampires, and daemons) have very interesting histories and they seemed very well thought out. The historical aspect of the novel is also stunning, which isn’t surprising given that Harkness teaches history. I’m totally helpless when it comes to history (I blame bad school teachers), so I have no idea if the history stuff is factual, but it sure as hell sounds impressive.
I took a half star/heart from my rating this time around *le gasp*. Maybe it was because I already knew the story but I kept noticing things that didn’t bother me as much when I first read it. Mostly, I’m talking about Matthew and his antiquated views of what women should or should not be doing with their lives. His overbearing attitude to Diana (both before and after they become a couple) was horrible and I hated that it was explained away with “oh, he’s like that because he’s a vampire and also 1500 years old, so don’t bother trying to change him.”
To her credit, Diana does try to change him – she just has little to no success with it. Her initial reaction to meeting a vampire was also refreshingly normal (she kind of freaks out and tries to escape) compared to most other vampire novels.
I liked Diana a lot, despite her questionable taste in men. She’s very good at controlling every aspect of her life – until she isn’t. But she doesn’t crumble and cry when things go to shit but makes the best of her situation. She’s fiercely loyal and quick to love, which are both traits I admire in characters.
The plot is also sufficiently intriguing that I got sucked into the story again and managed to finish this 700-page beast in a matter of days. I’ll try not to wait too long before I tackle the sequel this time so I don’t forget what’s happened in this book.
Have you read A Discovery of Witches? What did you think?
Do you have any favourite books that feature history this strongly?
I’d love to hear from you! :)