Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All Around Me - Review of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

(Goodreads Blurb)
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.
I have had A Discovery of Witches in my possession for a while now, and I even attempted to read it once before, but was quickly intimidated early on.  When Deborah Harkness announced that she would be leading a real time readalong, I knew that I had to jump on board.  It was perfect because there was an "assigned" reading almost daily.  This kept me from trying to read too much at a time and I was better able to absorb what I read.  It wasn't long before I was savoring every word and then obsessing over them during the times I wasn't reading.
This story is full of rich history.  The author is so very precise and technical that at first it seemed quite overwhelming.  When I did gather my courage, I was so completely blown away by the beauty and accuracy of each and every detail.

Please be aware that this review may seem like a ramble-y bit of insanity, but I just cannot seem to get my thoughts and words together in a way that conveys the absolute rightness of this story.  This is something that no amount of pushing and telling and manipulating can get you to understand until you just jump in.  Then suddenly you are in the middle of it and you look around and think 'where have you been all my life?'.

Diana Bishop loves to research ancient science and alchemy manuscripts.  She is also a witch.  Although Diana has always attempted to hide her non-human heritage, but suddenly she finds herself drawing interest from many different species, vampires, demons, and witches.  One particular vampire, Professor Matthew Clairmont, seems to have appointed himself as her protector and keeps a close watch on everything she does.

One night, while researching books in the library, Diana comes across a manuscript that she knows is more than meets the eye.  The Ashmole 782 seems like a simple alchemy manuscript, but is practically dripping in magic and though it intrigues her, Diana is quick to send the manuscript back to the basement in the library.  She notices that Matthew is watching and that he knows something is different about the book she was documenting.
Matthew and Diana enter a friendship of sorts that is tentative at best.  Diana is never sure if Matthew is going to eat her or kiss her, and part of her is hoping for a little of both.  What she does know is that Matthew knows more than he's sharing and she has to keep him close if she hopes to discover what mysteries lie beneath the covers of the Ashmole 782.

Matthew and Diana begin a journey that takes them to France to meet his "mother" and "brother".  There Diana learns that Matthew has some secrets that he would like to keep hidden as well.  

Matthew struggles with his attraction for Diana.  He wants her, but he is also a vampire.  Vampires are predatory creatures and he cannot decide if his desire for Diana is because he wants HER or if he just enjoys stalking her.

Matthew is domineering, overbearing, possessive, and basically everything I usually hate about romance novel heroes.  Except that it works for him.  You know that he isn't trying to assert his authority over Diana because of some deficiency in his man hood.  You discover that he doesn't tell her what to do in order to make himself feel big.  You find that his possessiveness isn't about a man marking his territory and beating his chest to proudly show off his manhood.  No, you learn Matthew's history and just accept that he acts the way he does because of all he has seen in his life.  He wants what is best for Diana and he wants to be the one to give it to her.

As Matthew and Diana grow closer, they discover that she is being pursued by members of all species.  The Congregation is a group made up of demons, witches, and vampires and they have rules, rules that Diana and Matthew are breaking.  Rules that the Congregation will do ANYTHING to uphold.

The only other thing I can say is go.  Go now and buy this book, borrow it, check it out of the library, steal it off of your friend's bookshelf.  Do what you can to get your hands on it.  You will never be sorry that you did and if you don't you will always wonder if you've missed out on the greatest paranormal love story that there is.  Mathew and Diana's story is a one of a kind and you need it in your life.

In case you were wondering, this book gets all the stars.  Every.  Last.  One.


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