A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
"A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the "Twilight" series-with an extra serving of historical realism. "
As I've mentioned previously I really loved this book. While it is filled with supernatural creatures it isn't really a fantasy genre book. It reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke in the way in which it blended supernatural creatures with academia. Both books also have a slow pace and take their time telling their respective stories. JS&MN was a book where the reviews were higher from those who finished it and got lower and lower the less of the book that was finished. You had to read the whole book to appreciate the flow of the story.
But back to ADofW. The short synopsis: A witch and a vampire form a forbidden love while searching for a lost manuscript.
What makes this book so much more is the way this simple story is told. Diana (the witch) and Matthew (the vampire) fall in love slowly over the course of much of the book. They go to breakfast, dinner and even a very interesting yoga class. I loved reading about them falling in love.
I thought all of the characters were wonderfully drawn. Harkness really thought through how the different species would behave and the unique traits they might develop. Each individual character felt clearly created and unique and it was easy to invest in them.
This book is close to 600 pages so it takes it's time telling it's story and if I had one complaint it's that I did not know that this was meant to be the first in a trilogy. With about 100 pages left I couldn't figure out how this story would ever resolve itself and - it doesn't. If you read this book you'll have to read the second to find any resolution to the story. This book doesn't have it's own internal story separate from the larger trilogy (beyond Matthew and Diana falling in love and it could be argued that this story isn't completed by the end of the novel either). That leaves a great deal of plot unfinished. It was more frustrating because I didn't know this was going to happen. I thought this was a stand alone book. I finished ADofW a couple days ago and reflected before writing this and now I'm ok with the ending.
Overall I really did love this book. As a humanities grad who loves old books (and witches) I don't think I could ever have resisted this book. I see myself rereading it again and definitely reading the sequel when it comes out. It's one of the best alternate worlds I've read in a long time.
5 out of 5
What I'm reading now
A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander
Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning