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Harkness, D.  A Discovery of Witches.  New York: Viking. 2011. Pp 579 ( Hardcover 28.95).

Read with: a cup of Yogi Kava Stress Relief tea, two cups of peppermint tea with honey, a glass of hibiscus lemonade, one (real) Coca-Cola (from the Mexican grocery), two refills on my stainless steel water bottle and a glass of moscato over two days in about 7 hours.

Overall impression:  I liked this book.  I love smart books–ones that are based, at least in part, in actual academic disciplines, and which uses them to drive the story in some way. This is a book written by a historian about a historian in denial about being a witch, who happens upon the biggest magical discovery in 150 years (a book which has been missing for that amount of time) and sets the community of supernatural beings reeling.

The book is set modern times, mainly in the collegiate atmosphere of England (Oxford and so forth), the French countryside and the Northeast of the US.  The inhabitants are a bit different though–witches, vampires and daemons, who may or may not be separate (but closely allied) species to humans, but all of whom must keep (mostly) quite about their differences to the main human population. The main character, Diana Bishop, comes from a long line of witches in America–all the way back to Salem.  In denial of her heritage, she eschews witchcraft in pursuit of the history of science (a study after my own heart, though her preference of 17th century chemistry is about 200 years too early, and the wrong discipline for me!).  In Oxford, she accidentally rediscovers the lost alchemic text known as the Ashmole 782 and unwittingly attracts the attention of the supernatural world, including the attentions of one Matthew Clairmont, (classic hottie) vampire, wine enthusiast and scientist. From there, they are pursued by witches, daemons and vampires (whom are mostly antagonistic to one another) for various reasons…but you’ll have to read it for yourself!

All in all, it was a darn good book.  It did get a bit bogged down in the middle, but it was forgivably well written and the characters were likable (though a bit cliched for the genre).  The biggest attraction of this book, that sets it apart, is the smart factor…its a bit like an atypical urban fantasy The DaVinci Code.

Four elements of five!

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