Discovering Deborah Harkness

May 29, 2012

For those that love the blending of fact and fancy that goes into creating historical fiction, the literary marketplace has delivered in spades over the last several years. The popularity of books like “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Historian”, and “Wolf Hall”, just to name a few, has brought many an adult back to a love of reading. Although your life is taken up with myriad obligations from kids and a job, to the daily commute, to running a household, some of these incredibly well-researched and embellished stories will make you feel like you’re smack in the middle of historical happenings. And one of the best is about to get a little better. So before Deborah Harkness releases the second book in her enchantingly witchy All Souls series, pick up her first offering, “A Discovery of Witches” to start the journey properly.

Book two, “Shadow of Night”, hits store shelves July 10th, which gives you plenty of time to head to the pool, put in your ear buds, and relax as you listen to Harkness spin a tale that involves history, love, and a few supernatural beings. In short, it’s just what you need to kick your summer off right. The story follows Oxford scholar Diana Bishop as she peruses ancient alchemical texts in the world-famous (albeit incredibly stuffy) Bodleian library. But life is about to turn upside down for this Diana, who has spent the years since her parents’ mysterious deaths denying her true historical heritage (as a powerful witch). And of course, her resistance to embrace her ancestral boon is just what gets her into hot water when she summons a text from the library’s stacks that has been missing (or rather hidden from the view of supernatural beings) for 150 years, unwittingly revealing its presence.

From there the story only gets stranger as vampires, witches, and other creatures crawl out of the shadows in search of Ashmole 782, a text that apparently reveals the origins of all supernatural beings (and which each sub-group is keen to get its hands on). And of course, one of the people seeking the book is a dashing vampire named Matthew Clairmont, with whom Diana has an instant spark. Neither faction wants these two getting together, but despite Diana’s initial misgivings (and warnings from the witchy elite), the mystery of re-finding Ashmole 782 (after she returns it to library storage) draws them closer together.

You might think that a scholarly mystery concerning supernatural beings set against a backdrop of historical academia is a bit strange to begin with, and throwing a love story into the mix could make it all the more unbelievable. And the truth is that this isn’t one of those audio books set to become an instant classic (no¬†free book notes¬†needed here). But once you start listening you will undoubtedly be drawn into this complex world through its deftly woven narrative, which uses scads of descriptive detail to seduce you into imagining every scene fully. Of course, there’s plenty of action to go around, too, so you shouldn’t get bored. “A Discovery of Witches” definitely weaves a spell; in fact, the only thing you’ll be angry about when you finish this audio book is that you don’t yet have the sequel. Luckily, it’s just around the corner, making now the perfect time to start your own relationship with this up-and-coming fiction author.


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