What makes this novel spectacular is not just its length; not just the invocation of hunger for the next sentence, the next page, the next chapter; and not just the web of characters who become suddenly connected although they have been that way all along; no, what makes this novel so spectacular, is Deborah Harkness’ use of the French language; deep knowledge of creatures outside the ordinary human species; the gut-wrenching, goosebump inducing relationships; the historical wines and delicious descriptions of them; and, and, the unavoidable attention paid to art.
When art talks about art – as this book beautifully talks about/revolves around historical manuscripts, reference books, bibles, even grimoires – I’ll likely fall in love with the discussion regardless of how much I enjoy the other parts of the story. Drawing from actual books and knowledge, as well as fictional texts and histories make any story more real, the characters more dynamic. It adds heft to the plot, additional intrigue to the minds of the readers.
Fortunately, when a form of art is not being discussed (rarely), A Discovery of Witches maintains its air of excellence. Diana Bishop, a scholar working in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, is swept into a world she has ignored for the entirety of her life in a matter of minutes after she mostly unknowingly unlocks the magic of an ancient manuscript, Ashmole 782, and we are swept up into her magic, her intellect, passion, and the battles of life and death, creature and creature, love (her eternal mate, husband, partner; a vampire named Matthew Clairmont) and power.
Now, if you have read the Twilight series, you may have flashbacks of Bella and Edward for perhaps the first 100 pages or so. Or maybe this happened to me because I do not read fantasy novels often and it’s the closest comparison I can draw out of my mind. While Deborah Harkness’ series was published after all three of Stephanie Meyers’, the former very clearly put an extensive amount of time into the research, development, and execution of every detail, which is unparalleled in Twilight. The historical details of vampires, witches, and daemons in relation to and apart from human history are thorough and nicely incorporated into the story line, playing a crucial part, rather than a tedious and forced part, throughout the novel.
I lost many hours of sleep because of this book, not regretfully, and am sad that I have finished, and mostly excited to start the second installment in the All Souls trilogy, Shadow of Night. I use “mostly” as a modifier because I learned on Friday that this second novel is checked out of the library until July 14th – the agony! Of course, I have plenty of other books on my plate but in my current emotional state I just want to launch back into the world of Diana and Matthew and keep journeying (because you know Harkness left readers with a cliff-hanger, it’s the way of a series).
Goodreads is full of reviews for this novel, so I’m curious if any readers here were just as impressed and mesmerized by A Discovery of Witches as I am or if you feel like the minor details (wine, yoga, making tea) were insignificant and derailing.
And, I’m excited to hear what you’re reading, what your favorite book about books or art is, and what your current book is conjuring within the folds of your mind. Happy reading!