5 March 2016

Romance: A Review of The Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness

With a winter that seems less a dream and more a harbinger of the Apocalypse, I found myself at the hill sledding for only the third snowy week this entire season. Watching kids, mine especially aim for the snow jump, hoping to soar but more importantly crash spectacularly, I pondered on my love of vampires. 

Vampires, witches, demons, mummies, beyond the popular zombie grossness there isn't a mythical horrific creature that hasn't caught my fancy. Stephen Sommers 1999 film, The Mummy has an alarming allure over me.The world could be over-run by aliens, every station proclaiming the coming of a new age but I would be that one person glued to the station broadcasting the hokey shenanigans of Brendan Fraser as he battles Imotep all the while winning the hand of his lady love. As the son launches himself into the stratosphere, my gaze blurs as I begin to wonder if my creature love is less about their freaky nature and more about the love affair? Could it be that this sci-fi girl desires a dose of romance? 

How else to explain my 53rd viewing of this rom-com-horror flick or this past week's aggressive attempt to ignore my family in hopes of reading Deborah Harkness's, A Discovery of Witches uninterrupted? Apparently this sci-fi geek prefers her dalliance with the love affair draped in moonlight, soaked in blood and cast in a witch's curse. The first of the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches has been described as Bewitched meets Harlequin and I am not one to disagree. We enter a world in which witches, vampires and daemons co-exist all the while remaining hidden in plain sight from us droll humans. A witch by the name of Diana, a Yale alchemical professor and Oxford scholar discovers a magical manuscript while researching for an upcoming conference. Dismissing the magical pull, Diana returns the ancient tome to the Bodleian Library, subsequently entangling herself in a world and a heritage that she has denounced since the death of her parents at the age of seven. 

As every scholarly professor does (obviously), Diana spends her entire existence in the library and it is here that she is spied casting a simple spell. Unfortunately, the spy is Matthew Clairmont, millionaire, genius, geneticist, and 1500 years old vampire; with the dash of the undead hotness to the equation I went from mildly interested to completely besotted. A Discovery of Witches is not going to open your mind to literary possibilities nor awaken your poetic soul. This is a typical damsel-in-distress romance, complete with castles, danger, and lust. Although the helpless, "I don't want to be a witch" scenario was aggravating at best, the novel's historical references are on point. Deborah Harkness, a professor of history uses her expertise to flesh out the narrative, expanding a typical vampire/witch novel into a rich diorama. Like the late Egyptologist, Elizabeth Peters with her beloved Amelia Peabody mystery series, A Discovery of Witches offers a medium for the writing scholar to play. 

Sometimes this girl just wants to read about vampires and witches in love, who knew?