Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is book that cast a spell on your knowledge of witches and vampires. This book is one of the All Souls trilogy, it is one of the best books of introducing vampires and witches and their additions to world history and sciences. The book is really well researched on the history and plausibly inserts the creatures into time. This book reminded me of some of my favorite parts of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and The Mayfair Witches, the history and the romance. It creates and explains it’s own rules for each creature, mocking their Hollywood interpretations. Diane the main character is a strong witch that does need any saving my vampire or witch. I like that this book is quest for the holy grail tale reversed, instead of finding out about human life they want a book that explains the creation of vampires, witches, and daemons (not a typo, it is a creature at uses influence to madding effect, the super smart, that could go crazy at any moment) and also how to destroy them. The novel pays out like a chess match making continuous moves and sacrifices along the way. A Discovery of Witches is a show on AMC that is currently in it’s second season starring Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer.

The Plot: Diana Bishop is a professor at Oxford and also a witch. She knows what she is but very reluctant to use any of her powers only for trivial stuff, like not finding her glasses. She knows of Vampires and Daemons can feel their presence. Diana while doing research on alchemy stumbles across a book she needs in the Oxford library. the book is old with a seal preventing it from being opened, she need this book and it reluctantly opens, and Diana can feel a spell being lifted. She does research with it a notices the pages when in light reveal hidden text, she would love to explore this more but her need is done, she shuts the book and the seal reforms making the magic reactivate, and returns it. What she didn’t know is that no one has seen that book in hundreds of years and the book holds secrets of life and death to witches, vampires and daemons. When the magic was released others felt it’s power. Matthew an over 1,000 year old vampire wants the book and starts following Diana and protecting her from others who want the book. The book draws an ancient order that will stop at nothing for the secrets of the book.

What I Liked: The history in this book is so good I felt very real and plausible. The lore changes to Vampires and Witches were really thought full and explained where the movies and book borrowed from. The haunted witch house were my favorite scenes with the grandma witch in ghost form criticizing her ancestor’s choices. The family dynamic of vampires, this is the first book that I have read where the maker is referred to as mother and father while the new vampire is referred to as son of daughter. The aspect of the book and the secrets it holds was really intriguing and held my interest. I enjoyed that Diana’s character was so head strong and wasn’t a damsel in distress. I really liked the bad guys and only wished I could have spent more time with them in this book. I really enjoyed the side characters of Marcus, Miriam, and Hamish. The love aspect took be quite a while to be fully on board but when more was reveled in terms of fate I enjoyed it more and it became less forced. The mystery surrounding the death of Diana’s parents and what they did to protect her. The lead in to the next book is really intriguing, it seems like all the things that I liked in this book will expanded. The magic was really good I especially liked the witchwater scene and witchfire usage.

What I Disliked: All the conversations about wine, too much! There’s people out to kill us, let’s take a while and talk of this Bordeaux. The pacing to me was sometime frustrating, there’s a book that can hold the secret to everything we know of witches, vampires, and daemons, and it takes 200 pages to try to summon the book again, while we had ten wine conversations. What I failed to see was all the information on history was pulling the book in a different direction, which I enjoyed where the book ended up but would have enjoyed a faster pace pulling me there.

Recommendations: If you want a smart new take on the vampire genre, then A Discovery of Witches is the book. If you’re a history buff, you’ll geek out after Matthew is inserted Forest Gump-like into literature, history, and science as well as witches and daemons influences as well. This book captures the imagine because it it so well thought out in terms of history. If you’re a wine connoisseur then you will find all the wine conversation way more fascinating than I did. I rate this book 4out of 5 stars. My girlfriend has read all the books says that I will like the 2nd book a lot better, so I look forward to it and the history.

Book Review: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Hunting Prince Dracula the second in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I feel in a lot of ways it is vastly improved from the first novel in terms of scope and descriptions. In the first novel the author was kind of handcuffed by using Jack the Ripper’s real crimes and building a novel around it, but this is a totally new tale where we get the author’s own vision. The body count is up, the dissections are more detailed, and there’s bucket loads of blood. The horror is ratcheted up, it takes a little while to get to the real horror but I have a phobia to one element that was described really well making my skin all creepy crawly.

The Plot: This novel takes days after the last one with Audrey Rose still dealing with torment that she and her family went through in the last book, and doesn’t know if she can pursue forensic medicine and operate on the dead. Thomas, her still will they won’t they “friend”, accompanies Audrey Rose to they’re new school forensic medicine at Castle Bran in Romania, the once home of Vlad the Impaler of Dracula lineage. While on the Orient Express heading to Romania a young man is murdered by a wooden stake, just outside their cabin. They see a pale sickly boy leave the scene as the police arrive. When they get to the cabin they’re not at all welcomed the headmaster thought Audrey’s application was a possible joke, and they find out there spot is not guaranteed and out of the 9 classmates only 2 will be taken. When they meet their fellow students two stick out Prince Nicolae part of the royal family and an heir through marriage to Vlad the Impaler, and she meets the sick pale boy from the train. They plan to question him, but before they can he is found impaled and with two marks on this body and all his blood drained in the nearest town. Another woman in town goes missing, as more bodies start turning up. Is this the work of a Vampire? Audrey and Thomas are determined to find out, but will it be too late?

What I liked: The setting of Bran Castle in Romania is a great location that is filled with it’s own set mysteries. The castle is both creepy and you feel the confinement by the elements and other things keeping them from exiting. Really great female characters in this story besides Audrey, the first book really missed that. The secrets revealed about the castle and people are really intriguing. The ending kept me on the edge of my seat the last fifty pages are so good, if the rest of the novel were like it, I would give it five stars without question. There’s a false scare that is written really well, you can almost see the author’s smiling crimson lips as she gets the reader. Feminism is still prevalent throughout and because there are other female characters not just Audrey bucks the system. The Thomas Audrey relationship is challenged more in this one, but the banter is still there and flows really well. Thomas does have the dumbest guy prank, that I slapped my head with what was he thinking, but it was not out of character, I can see a lot of my friends do that to someone they’re interested in thinking it was a good idea. I made a complaint in the last one that I figured it out to easily because the possible suspects were so low, but in this one almost every character is a suspect so it made figuring it out who did it really difficult. This book does have an Indiana Jones moment and it is great. I forgot to put this in my first review but the covers are absolutely beautiful, and really drew me in.

What I disliked: There’s a lot of family history, and it was always made clear to me who was related to who and how they were related to the Vlad the Impaler lineage. It made my head spin and could have been explained better. The other students needed more personality, the Italians, Prince Nicolae and the American where the only memorable students the rest seem to blend in. The writing is still current and not at all old timey, the occasional use of Romanian langue worked though. The middle slows down a lot and I had to plod through in parts.

I recommend this book for reader of the first book Stalking Jack the Ripper, I liked this more than the last one, in terms of stake secrets, and finale. The author does her research and if you want some facts on Vlad the Impaler, just like in Ripper, I learned something. Where I struggled in the last one between a three and a four star, this was an easy 4 out of 5 stars.  I will definitely be checking out Escaping from Houdini when it comes out next week.