Many reviewers, recommenders, and readers have described “A Discovery of Witches,” by Deborah Harkness as a Twilight story for academics. In fact, book reviewer, Karen Valby called the book “Twilight for the tweedy set.” This description is both apt, in that the novel combines allusions to academic subjects from obscure Renaissance authors to genetics with literal fantasy illusions (i.e. magic).
In fact, the book uses fantasy as a multifaceted theme. The fantasy is clear as this is a world where modern-day witch Diana Bishop is pursued by Daemons, other witches, and oh-so-swoon-worthy vampire Matthew Clairmont. Just as these fantasy elements require a willing suspension of disbelief so does the romantic fantasy.
The romance between Diana and Matthew, while forbidden, is also inevitable. Just like in Twilight, the fact that these two characters are soul mates, meant to be, or whatever you want to call it, is a given. When they touch there is weird electricity that runs through their fingertips. They are mysteriously able to separate out each element of each other’s sent. I mean who really smells like cinnamon, cloves, and cedar? From Romeo and Juliet to Fifty Shades of Grey, if you can accept these relationship statuses you will buy into the novel, if not there is little chance the reader will enjoy the book.
If I had a criticism of the book, it would be that despite a relatively slow pace the book is trying to accomplish too many things at once. In some parts this is a strength- there are details such as the inclusion of yoga and magic explained through DNA, which add to the believability and uniqueness of this world. However, this is also the story of woman discovering secrets from her past; and a woman’s discovery her self and her magic abilities; and a forbidden love story; and a Lord of the Rings style hunt for an ancient and powerful book; and a story about different groups of people trying to exist in the same world; and probably even more plot lines than I’m thinking of right now.
That is a lot to fit into one book, even if it is almost 600 pages. At times certain parts of these story lines are left unresolved, which can be unsatisfying. However as the book moves on the dominant plots come to the forefront (hence their classification as dominant) and I will say that these multiple variations didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.
If you think you fall into the category of people who are willing, or eager, to believe the love at first sight/meant for each other books then I definitely recommend this book. I loved it, and liked the subsequent sequel Shadow of the Night, even more. Happy reading.