Since I’ve stopped taking lunch at work and am more inclined these days with distracting myself with music rather than reading on my commute home, I haven’t been consuming books with the same rapidity I once enjoyed. In fact I have such a huge backlog of material to get through, that I’ve had to stop picking up anything else interesting that crosses my path.
However I’m hoping to turn that around, and get back to my old ways.
While we were in Istanbul, Nic stumbled across A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness in the Esans Hotel traveller’s library and tore through it in short order while we were cruising the Mediterranean.
Because we’d decided to pack as lightly as we could, knowing that the trip into Morocco would mean having to lug everything we had on and off the trains. Not a fun prospect if you’ve ever tried to toss a full duffel bag into a train. So when I’d exhausted the magazines I’d brought along, including a couple of the requisite airport purchases Nic typically makes when we’re heading out on a trip, her enjoyment at reading A Discovery of Witches led me to picking it up. And I’m not disappointed that I did – even if that meant it got lugged up into the Atlas Mountains and then back over the Atlantic to Canada.
Interestingly Nicole already had an eye out for the book, having heard about the many good reviews it was receiving. Which were well deserved. Deborah Harkness does a very good job building up her world, and giving it a physicality that helps submerge you in the setting and given it’s rather fantastical cast, with vampires, witches, and daemons taking centre stage, necessary for suspending your disbelief.
While complaints that it might be slow paced do hold some water, consideration should be given for Diana’s rejection of her past, and headstrongness that sees her fiercely fighting for the reality she’s enclosed herself within. Combine that with Matthew’s secretive ways, and I can see where that criticism might come. I however do feel like a lot happens – even if off screen some times and only mentioned later in passing – the story is continuously moving along and is not only treading the events of the present, but also those of the past, spanning centuries of intrigue and struggle.
Also, with the exception of a few side scenes with Matthew, the majority of the action happens within Diana’s point-of-view. Thankfully by the time the plot is fully a foot, she’s taken a much firmer hand over her fate and takes a more active role in finding out just exactly what’s happening, and fill in many of the questions the reader’s has. Though with such an expansive cast, there are many sub-characters whose plots we don’t get much more than a cursory glance at.
Overall though I feel like Harkness did a great job weaving the past and present together in a story which is really about the events of the past and how they end up getting played out in the present. So I’d certainly recommend it, and am looking forward to her second installment coming out this year.