Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Review A Discovery of Witches *Spoiler Alert*

I've just finished reading A Discovery of Witches.  I would like to start off by saying that I really loved this book, which is evidenced by the fact that I finished it in under a week with very little time to do it.  I used every spare second I had to read it and I would not have put it down if I had not been obligated to by a certain little someone that needed her mother.  That being said, unfortunately at times it reminded me of a mix between an adult version of Twilight and Harry Potter.  While these are two series that I thoroughly enjoyed for the sheer escape that they provided, the handful of times that it reminded me of those books, I was disappointed as I felt that I wanted something new from this book.  A newer perspecitive on vampires? It did offer that, don't get me wrong.  I know the teen vamp was not a geneticist, didn't practice yoga, or talk particulars about terroir, but there were certainly a lot of parallels.  I guess I just didn’t want to be reminded of the former 2 books while reading this one.    
Some things that I really enjoyed about the book are:
The magic:  I really liked the idea that Diana was trying to stifle her magic, that she wanted to be normal and earn her success without having the supernatural advantage but how it would come out in spurts and how she began slowly to realize her potential power.  I liked that she came from a long line of witches with a rich history.  I would like to know more about them
The setting:  I loved the atmosphere of Oxford and the college rooms where she stayed, and the library, of course.  I loved the early morning fog on the river, and the Old Lodge.  Matthew’s lab and the DNA studies were also very interesting. 
The protagonist, Diana Bishop, is a solid character.  But there were certain things that just didn’t add up for me.  For example, she has so much trouble remembering spells when her Aunt Sarah attempts to teach her.  Oh, she just can’t seem to get the spells right and continues to recite them incorrectly.   Yet when confronted with some alchemical text, or ancient manuscript, she has no problem.  She can recall obscure, complicated, and mysterious information she has read and studied.  Not extremely modest, she even says that it was her intelligence that got her out of Madison.  Not one famous (and even not so famous) playwright, scientist, physicist, monarch, or president from the past is a mystery to her.  Barely any historical or literary reference that Matthew makes gets by her.  She is that good of a historian.  The brilliant Dr Bishop though has a hard time remembering “Double double toil and trouble”.  I just didn’t believe that the serious, intelligent, academic Dr Bishop of Yale University would have trouble reciting some lines of spells.  But other than that, I really liked her as a character and I found myself getting very excited as her magic began to release and take form.  The magical Bishop house was a little too wacky magical in the vein of the Weasleys, but nevertheless I did enjoy the last part of the book in Madison.    I would have liked to have heard a little bit more about the Bishop ancestors and the trouble they got into in Salem, etc… but maybe that will be in the next two books of the trilogy.
Matthew is strong, interesting, and mysterious. He will surely not disappoint anyone who is a fan of handsome, dangerous vampire leads.   However, for being a 1500 year old vampire, he certainly seems rather insecure at the most curious of moments.  He’s the all powerful alpha male, grand master of the Knights of Lazarus, yet when it comes to Diana’s feelings for him he is as shy and insecure as a teenager.  When he puts his “mother’s” ring on her finger at the end of the novel, she says, “He took my left hand and looked away, afraid of my reaction.  Will you wear it?”
Wait a second.  She calls him her husband already, has called his vampire son her son, is defying not just thousands of years of rules and risking her life to be with him, and yet he is afraid of her reaction when he puts a ring on her finger? Did I miss something? 
She assures him with a nod.  She is so emotional she is “quite unable to speak”.  “Matthew’s face turned shy, and his eyes dropped to my hand…”  I had a hard time picturing Matthew acting shy and not being able to look at her.  Then with a shaking voice he begins to recite the vows.  When Diana asks him if they are now married in the eyes of vampires and according to church laws, he replies, “In your eyes, too, I hope.   Matthew sounded uncertain.”  
Uncertain?  Really?  Still? It’s just not convincing to me.   This is the man/vampire that could simply “sense” that she wanted to “jump the paddock fence” while riding Rakasa.  He is that in tune with her feelings and the sound of her blood and heart. 
Her utter desperation and sadness at his departure from Sept-Tours caused her to call forth a Witchwater so powerful she nearly killed herself and his Maman.  At his subsequent return they declared their love for each other thereby making them married in the eyes of vampires. This is a vampire with 1500 years of experience.   He’s already told her numerous times that she is his.  But now he’s shy and uncertain that she will want to wear the ring?  This smacked a little too much of Edward and Bella and that vampire’s mother’s ring.  That was palatable in their teenage love story, but was a little out of place here, in my opinion.   
Ysabeau is a great character, although initially when they arrive at Sept-Tours the whole “Maman” thing with Matthew was admittedly a little annoying and, I thought, somewhat silly.  Again, a 1500 year old vampire who was not a boy or teenager when he was “reborn” and yet he’s going on about his mother, and Diana's needing to be brave when she meets her.  But as I read on, Ysabeau did convey something maternal and I really grew to like her character and the relationship and dialogue between her and Diana.  I was ultimately convinced that she was a maternal figure.  I suppose it’s a testament to the fact that we all, apparently vampires included, have our families to contend with sometimes, but it’s our shared history and our loyalty to one another which makes it all worthwhile.
In the next books I am hoping to get some clarification on the parallels between Diana and Matthew and the image from Ashmole 782 of the wedding of the 2 substances to make the philosopher’s stone, and also to understand better the function of Diana’s role as a chimera.  What role does Diana the mythological goddess of the hunt play? What connection does the witch Diana really have with her?
 I would like to hear more about the Bishop witches during the Salem witch trials and possibly the trials in England as well.  And I'm looking forward to reading about their time in Elizabethan England.  Too bad we must wait until 2012.


  1. I've heard so much about this book! Everyone's been recommending it. I should check it out sometime. Your review is fantastic!