My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One mark of a good book is how soon one comes to like the protagonist. By this measure, and many others, A Discovery of Witches in an excellent book. I immediately liked her protagonist, Diana Bishop. By the end of the first chapter I definitely cared about what happened to her. The subtle reveal of Ms. Bishop’s extraordinary family and latent abilities as well as the mystery surrounding the Ashmole manuscript she finds in the Oxford library had me hooked. This story is broadly classified as a romance tale, and it is definitely that, but even more so it is a mystery, and a fascinating modern fantasy as well.
I also loved the leading man, Matthew Clairmont. He is mysterious and aloof, and every bit as quietly menacing as one would expect from a vampire. Ms. Harkness does an excellent job of imbuing him with a truly far sighted outlook. One can feel the weight of the centuries he has lived. Thank you, Deborah Harkness for bringing us a vampire with real teeth and palpable gravitas.
The world building is also excellently done. The explanation of magic, the existence of vampires, witches, and daemons and their respective rivalries were logical and internally consistent. The interweaving of the extraordinary with the commonplace was delightful and textured.
Also delightful was the burgeoning relationship between Diana and Matthew. It progressed slowly and felt natural. Matthew’s charm and sincere interest, as well as his ability to protect her, worked their way into her heart. Her mixture of vulnerability, dedication and courage broke through his defenses. I kept waiting for them to express their mutual attraction. When it finally happened it was satisfyingly heartwarming and rewarding for all parties, characters and reader.
The secondary characters of this tale are wonderfully realized. Diana’s aunts, Matthew’s Mother and progeny, the helpful daemon, even the Bishop house. All of them are textured, complex characters in their own right.
I heartily recommend A Discovery of Witches to any fan of paranormal romance, time-spanning mysteries or first rate storytelling.