Monday 8 October 2018

A Discovery of Witches

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.



Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

As you know I'm reading this book- although I abandoned it whilst I read Ian Rankin's latest book In a House of Lies, which is my preferred style and genre. But I will get back to A Discovery of Witches. I'm glad you enjoyed it and from what I've read so far I can see what you mean about wanting a tiny bit more.

Cath said...

Margaret: The book was fine and at no point did I decide I didn't want to finish it like the first time. But really it was no different to other paranormal romance series, there's a certain formula they follow and this followed it very precisely. It's not my preferred genre either, if I want paranormal I would probably read a Charlie Parker book by John Connolly, those are paranormal crime and quite hard hitting. I'm so interested to hear what you think of this book, I really am. I'm back to crime now and enjoying Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie. So clear that she used her experience as a dispenser in WW1 to write this one. Really enjoying it.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I have tried a few different paranormal romance stories and I just can't get along with the genre at all. I might manage to get through one if especially asked to by an author or publisher, but I think I would have to declare my ambivalence about the genre up front, and let them decide whether they would still like me to represent them!

Agatha Christie, or Margaret's Ian Rankin, are definitely much more up my street, with the odd piece of traditional historical or contemporary romance thrown in for good measure!

Thanks for sharing though and sorry I couldn't muster up any real enthusiasm for this one. Happy Reading :)


Cath said...

Hi Yvonne, thanks for dropping by. I can well understand why you can't get along with the paranormal romance genre, it's such a formulaic sort of genre in my opinion and plots do not vary very much. No problem that you couldn't muster up any enthusiasm, I couldn't muster huge amounts myself. I gave it a four on Goodreads but now feel it should have been a three... it's really a three point five book.

Now reading an Agatha Christie myself oddly enough, Hickory Dickory Dock, a Poirot novel, and it really is excellent.