A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness reminds me that maybe I could read more paranormal fantasy. What a wonderful book. The story catches your attention immediately and you are instantly compelled to the story’s main character, Diana Bishop. Everything about Diana feels real and justified, she feels like a real person that she could be a scholar at Oxford University (not that I’ve ever been to Oxford). Diana’s dreams and desires are quickly apparent and the story problem is show to the reader in an expedient fashion. Her adventures propel you through the story and I was left wanting more of her world when the book ended.

The problem of a witch suppressing his/her powers or wanting to be a normal person is nothing new and I’m sure it’s been done more times than I’ve read about it. But I feel that the way that aspect of this story has been handled was very well done. I was certainly left wondering if the suppression was really Diana’s choice, a byproduct the the spell or spells that were cast on her, or a combination of both (one of the few questions not directly answered).

The world building was fun and I enjoyed the implications that witches, demons, and vampires could live amongst humans. The lines were very clearly drawn, you understood who each “creature” is and how they play their parts in society. The magic I the story is rich and the history of witches and witchcraft is finely crafted.

I’m not the biggest fan of vampire stories, I’m not sure why, but I’ve never found vampires appealing, but I love witch stories and magic. But if vampire stories were more like this, I would probably read more of them. I find the whole drop-dead gorgeous guy or gal whom the hero or heroine falls madly in love with to be very boring. Sure the vampires have to be beautiful, they wouldn’t be vampires if they weren’t, but at least in this story they feel like real people that are trying to live their lives, they had more going for them than their good looks and indestructibility. I also found the way that the way these vampires deal with feeding quite compelling. I think it’s a trend to have vampires feeding on more than just humans and I enjoyed the twist on that concept  here, they have morals about feeding on humans and they’ll certainly hunt normal game as well, can’t have continual serial murders in the modern world, too suspicious.

The love story was only mildly predictable, you kind of figure out early on that something is going to happen between the witch and the vampire, but the fun part is finding out how that’s going to happen. And the conflicts that arise as a result are engaging and believable.

It is obvious that  Deborah Harkness’s love of history comes across in the telling of the story and through the characters that she creates. The best part is that all the history you learn or are reminded of feels natural and not simply inserted or sound preachy. Every bit of story detail is placed on purpose and serves the characters and/or the story.

There was enough balance of action and drama for me in this novel and I can’t wait to move on to the second book.

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