Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

Take elements of popular fiction - a child discovering magical powers after parents had died before sharing the knowledge, the star-crossed love between a vampire and a warm blood, the historical talismans reveal secrets buried in ancient books and organizations. Now, add precise writing skills, vibrant detailing of historical events and the dispelling of myths and enhancing legends. This combination would lead to Deborah Harkness’s “A Discovery of Witches.”

I randomly found this book at the library, reminding me that I haven't read a good witch story in awhile. First of all, I do like vampire fiction, but I'm old school. I like Bram Stoker and Anne Rice (after LeStat, how could anyone even entertain moody teenagers like Edward Cullen?). There was a time where I read a lot of vampire stories and I had to hunt for those books. Now you trip over a vampire show every time you change the channels and elementary kids are reading them. I've been turned off. 

That being said, I've just loved this book and totally enthralled by Matthew Clairmont. The main character Diana Bishop is an academic historian who has denied her genetic magical powers and by accident, draws attention to herself and enters the world of vampires, witches and daemons and their hunt for secrets she holds. Matthew Clairmont who befriends her. He's tall, dark haired, extremely intelligent, has a French accent, wealthy and connected.. but, he's a vampire. Yeah. At first, they have this strange relationship of awkward intimacy. After all, how does one go out to dinner when one of them doesn't really eat and just needs to hunt for blood later?

However, their relationship is absolutely intense and sexy, yet there's been no consummation. In a world obsessed with "50 Shades of Gray", it's true talent to deliver this story and express the soulful impact of their love without getting 'in your face'.

There's another sense of maturity in the writing with the relationships and growth of the characters. Diana fights back; she's an American witch of course. She's smart and not afraid of confrontation. When she does show frailty, Matthew is there to support her. But, he acknowledges her emotions and the characters develop so well together. Family members have realistic reactions and "human" conversations, even though they're not. 

While JK Rowling developed a whole world and vocabulary, Harkness relies on science and history to provide the language and reasoning. And, of course, she has fun with certain aspects of magic with the multiple types of powers that conveniently reveal themselves.

As I'm reading descriptions of Oxford University, I could visualize the rooms to the finest details. I kept thinking, this would make a great movie. After checking online, I see that this is a trilogy and movie rights have been bought.  In the meantime, Hollywood and Deborah Harkness - please pick Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC's Sherlock Holmes). He's freakishly good looking, can be intense and no nonsense in scenes, but just as sensitive and alluring. Yes, he's British and not French, but that helps with the vampire pallor and teeth, doesn't it? I imagine Diane Lane in this role, but the character is mid-30s. Not sure who else would work for an attractive academic.

For me, the timing has worked out perfectly. The 2nd book in this trilogy is due next month and the author will be making a book tour! I'll pitch her idea about Benedict in person. 

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