Autumn is well and truly here so a bit of spooky reading seems to suit the mood. I have a collection of books with ghostly or weird themes but none of those appealed so I grabbed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness last time I was in the library. Members of my family have read the entire All Souls trilogy and recommended them and I did try this one several years ago, abandoning it after 50 pages or so because I couldn't get into it. 'Time to try again', I thought, 'and be a bit more determined this time'.
Diana Bishop is the latest in a long line of witches dating back centuries to the witches of New England. Except that she doesn't want to be a witch and has spent her entire life, up to her mid thirties, ignoring her magic. At least, she thinks she has. She's over from America studying the history of alchemy in Oxford, using the Bodleian libary's reference section on a daily basis. For her it's the perfect life. There are other 'creatures' like herself around, witches, vampires and daemons, but one way or another Diana is able to ignore them.
Then one day she needs a manuscript, Ashmole 782. It's ancient, obscure - Diana reserves it, studies it briefly and realises it is magic and very powerful and sends it back. Later she's caught using her magic to call another book from a shelf. Diana doesn't think trivial uses of her magic count for her personal ban on it but the person who catches her is a powerful vampire, Frenchman, Matthew Clairmont.
It seems a lot of people, including Matthew, have been searching for Ashmole 782. It's hard to obtain and when got it's almost impossible to read. Diana did both with ease. She's now the centre of attention for some very unpleasant members of the witch, vampire and daemon communities. Attention she doesn't want. And it's dangerous attention too, Matthew makes her realise that her life is in jeopardy and she must accept his protection if she's going to survive. Not only that, learn to use and control her much hated magic. But can she trust her new vampire friend?
Well then, my second reading of A Discovery of Witches went a lot better than the first. It's a long book (almost 600 pages), I got to the end, and enjoyed it. I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads so all is hunky-dory. I'm sure you can hear the 'but'...
There isn't really a 'but' of huge significance, it's just that it was all exactly as I expected it to be... a fairly typical, if lengthy and detailed, paranormal romance. There were no real surprises, I'd guessed at Diana's hidden depths, as I suspect most people would. Matthew Clairmont was the usual romantic vampire lead, dangerous but on the side of the good guys etc. I was not keen on his dominating character traits but I guess that's vampires for you...
I think I was just hoping for a tiny bit *more*. Which is a shame as the writing was good, I loved, loved, loved the chateau in France and Diana's witchy aunts in New England. The manuscript/bookish feel to the tale is excellent. The book really is very readable and if you want a nice long spooky type read that's not too demanding, this would be perfect. But do I want to rush out and read the next two books? I'm pretty sure I will pick up book two, Shadow of Night, at some stage, but I'm not in any tearing rush, although when I do get to it I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Strange, I'm not often this ambivilent about a book but there ya go: it happens.