Tag Archives: a discovery of witches

Review: Darkfever (The Fever series #1), by Karen Marie Moning

TLDR recap:

After learning of her sister Alina’s mysterious murder, MacKayla Lane (better known as  just Mac) heads to Ireland determined to find out what happened and get her retribution.  At the tender age of 22, she doesn’t exactly have a plethora of survival skills but there just might be some fairly handly super-secret abilities that even she doesn’t know about.  On her quest to track down details of her sister’s sudden death, Mac teams up with an unlikely (and sometimes suspiciously nefarious) yet darkly appealing partner.  Chaos ensues as they begin the dangerous journey to finish Alina’s final task among the unsettling Unseelie fae.

    • Title: Darkfever
    • Series: The Fever series – book #1
    • Author: Karen Marie Moning
    • Prominent Characters: Mac Lane, Jericho Barrons
    • Recommended reader age: 15+
    • Sexual content level: Very light

Thoughts:

After reading several fast-and-furious style novels lately, the slower pace of this one was a pleasant change.  It’s a series starter, so I knew going in that it would be somewhat more leisurely getting to the point, but it turned out to be more of an adventurous journey than a romance or action-driven storyline.  Darkfever is the story of Mac Lane, who treks off to Ireland from her home in the states to solve her sister’s murder and get some retribution from the responsible parties.  To give some perspective on Mac, she is a 22-year-old Barbie doll of a bartender from a upper-middle-class American family who, according to her own narration, is beautiful and enviable, yet has no real life skills to speak of other than mixing drinks and schmoozing with patrons.  If you think you caught some snarkiness in that last comment, you did.  Mac comments WAY too frequently about how attractive she is… how soft and golden her skin, how long and lustrous her blond hair, how smooth and shapely her legs,  how stylish and cute her wardrobe & accessories… that she comes across as obsessively vain.  At first it didn’t bother me – I saw it as a vehicle for helping define her character in order to better develop and progress it later.  However, after about the 3rd reference to her youthly perfection, I wanted to punch her.  Maybe put some unsightly knots in that Barbie doll hair.  Replace her wardrobe with something gray and drab from a thrift store.  Seriously!  Ugh.

Anyway, back to the important stuff… Even with the slower pace, the story still progresses well and is entertaining to follow.  It doesn’t feel the need to rush through and pack in action scenes.   Instead, Ms. Moning gives the reader a plethora of clues and directional markers that allow us to form our own opinion of where Mac is headed and what might be in store for her.  Nothing is force-fed to us but important details are (generally) also not withheld for the sake of surprise and drama.  There is also a good amount of sarcasm and humor in the story, making me literally laugh out loud in a few parts.  The main supporting character, Jericho Barrons, is a successful mystery.  By that, I mean that the author does a respectable job of making him appealing and acceptable as an almost-lead character without giving away too much of his background… or really much of anything about him other than his vast financial wealth.  Usually by the end of a book, even the starter book in a series, the lead male character (or soon-to-be at least) will have been at least partially vetted and presented for reader approval.  Barrons is nearly as much of a mystery at the end of the story as he is when we first meet him.  Of course, some clues are inevitably dropped in the telling, but nothing that is too fast or too much… just enough to keep us speculating.

Darkfever, being a starter novel for the multi-book Fever series, is laid out well with good plot definition and pace, sporting an enjoyably motley cast of allies and baddies (ok, mostly baddies… of the fae variety).  It is entertaining and light enough for casual reading, with the promise of more intense and riveting developments in later installments.  I’m looking forward to getting started on number two in the series, Bloodfever.

Memorable quotes:

Hang on to your hats!  This book is infinitely quotable, so I pared it down to only eight.  *grin*

Tough crowd?

My philosophy is pretty simple – any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book.

Oh, the bloom of immortal youth…

We were going to live forever.  Thirty was a million light-years away.  Forty wasn’t even in the same galaxy.  Death?  Ha.  Death happened to really old people.

Why books will always be better than the movies made from them…

I love books, by the way, way more than movies.  Movies tell you what to think.  A good book lets you choose a few thoughts for yourself.  Movies show you the pink house.  A good book tells you there’s a pink house and lets you paint some of the finishing touches, maybe choose the roof style, park your car out front.

In Gaellic, a rose is not just a rose…

“‘Dubh’ is ‘do’?”  I was incredulous.  It was no wonder I hadn’t been able to find the stupid word.  “Should I be calling all pubs ‘poos’?”

On the perils of philosophy…

I’m a bottom-line girl.  I barely managed Cs in my college philosophy courses.  When I tried to read Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, I developed an unshakable case of narcolepsy that attacked every two to three paragraphs, resulting in deep, coma-like fits of sleep.

Heroes are over-rated.

Peraonally, I’d never had any desire to save the world.  Decorate it? Yes.  Save it? No.

The sad reality of the “entitlement generation” (EG)…

The EG is made up of kids who believe they deserve the best of everything by mere virtue of having been born, and if parents don’t arm them with every possible advantage, they are condemning their own children to a life of ostracism and failure.  Raised by computer games, satellite TV, the Internet, and the latest greatest electronic device – while their parents are off slaving away to afford them all – most of the EG believe if there’s something wrong with them, it’s not their fault; their parents screwed them up, probably by being away too much.  It’s a vicious little catch-22 for the parents any way you look at it.

On the value of playing “hard to get”…

Distinguish yourself, my mom had told Alina and me, in an age where girls often make themselves too available to boys, by making him work a little for your attention.  He’ll think he’s won a prize when he gets it, and he’ll work that much harder to keep it.  Boys turn into men and men put a premium on what’s hardest to get.

If you like Darkfever of The Fever series…

If you enjoyed Darkfever, you may also like the the Cassandra Palmer series (starting with Touch the Dark) by Karen Chance. Cassie shares the same “it’s a good day when no one is trying to kill me” philosophy, and also frequently finds herself in amusing-yet-dangerous situations where she has to use her wits and still-developing special skills to prevail.  Both are more urban fantasy than paranormal romance, and both focus on a central young strong female character who is instrumentally necessary in solving some big world-wide crisis.

You may also enjoy A History of Witches, the first novel in the new All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness and the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Chronicles series (starting with Dead Until Dark) by Charlaine Harris.  Both of these are also first-person narratives from a female heroine’s perspective, and both are also somewhat slower paced stories.

Final thoughts:

This was a fun read.  It probably won’t ever be one of my go-to favorites for a rainy day or a nice cozy fireside read, but it was an entertaining and effective series starter.  The stage is set, the characters have been introduced, and all that remains is for the real action to begin.  Give this one and Bloodfever, the second book in the Fever series, a try and see what you think!

Rating:
4.25 fangs: BITE IT… 

Related links:

http://www.karenmoning.com/ (The Fever series website)

http://www.karenchance.com/ (The Cassie Palmer series website)

http://deborahharkness.com/ (A Discovery of Witches website)

http://www.charlaineharris.com/ (The Sookie Stackhouse series website)

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Q&A with Deborah Harkness on ‘A Discovery of Witches’

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, is (in her own words) “a book about books, a love of reading, and what books can do”, and is still receiving all sorts of praise and accolades months after its debut.  After finishing the book, I wanted to know more about Ms. Harkness and her creative process.  I found a few interviews and wanted to share them with you all.  The first is from her own website and the second is from wordswithwriters.com.  Click on the links to see the full Q&A sessions…

From deborahharkness.com:

Q. Diana is an appealing heroine, determined, accomplished, and yet aware of her own weaknesses. In what ways, if any, does Diana reflect your own experience or personality?

There are some similarities—Diana is also a historian of science, also interested in the history of alchemy, and shares some of my passions (including television cooking programs, tea, and rowing). Really, all the characters have some element of me in them. I think that’s how authors create imaginary people who nevertheless feel real. The rest of Diana’s character comes from a combination of qualities I admire in others, wish fulfillment, and my completion of the following statement: “Wouldn’t it be great if a heroine in a book was…”

Q. How did you become interested in the intersection of alchemy, magic, and science? Historically, what do you see as the relationship between science and religion or mysticism?

In college, I had a wonderful professor who taught a class on these subjects. To kick off the class, he asked us, “How do you know what you think you know?” I’ve spent the last quarter century trying to answer that question. Because the world is a mysterious place and our relationship to it is not always clear, people have often turned to science, faith, and magic for answers. They help people find responses to the questions of Who am I and why am I here?

Q. You’ve written two well-received scholarly books. What inspired you to write a novel?

It’s pretty hard not to notice the popular preoccupation with witches, vampires, and things that go bump in the night. But we aren’t the first to be fascinated with these creatures. Today, we often imagine them into fantastic otherworlds, but the people I study believed that such magical beings were living alongside them in this world. So I started thinking, if there are vampires and witches, what do they do for a living—and what strange stories do humans tell to explain away the evidence of their presence? A Discovery of Witches began with the answers to those questions as I essentially reimagined our modern world through the eyes of medieval and Renaissance people.

Q. What prompted you to include both first-person and omniscient narration? What does each method of storytelling contribute to the book?

Early in the process of writing the book I realized that vampires must be secretive and protective creatures. For Matthew, this means he has both a strong instinct to hide from Diana’s questions and a need to protect her from threats. The only way to show that dynamic in Matthew (without making the reader very impatient with him) was to take Diana out of the picture temporarily and show him interacting with others who knew him in other ways. Since Diana is the first-person narrator, this caused some problems that omniscient narration solved. I think the combination of the two narratives works surprisingly well and gives the reader the immediacy of Diana’s experience along with some answers to their questions about Matthew.

Q. Elias Ashmole and Ashmole 782 are taken from real life. Who was Elias Ashmole? Why did you base your novel on this particular manuscript?

Elias Ashmole was a seventeenth-century English antiquarian and scholar. He gave major bequests to Oxford University, including the collection of books and objects that provided the foundation for the Ashmolean Museum (which is still in operation today). Ashmole’s books and manuscripts were first kept at the museum and then moved to the university’s Bodleian Library in the nineteenth century. The Ashmole manuscripts include numerous rare alchemical texts. One of the manuscripts, Ashmole 782, is currently missing. As a scholar, I’ve done a lot of research in the Ashmole alchemical manuscripts and always wondered what Ashmole 782 might contain.

Q. From the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the nineteenth century to the current Twilight series, vampires have always fascinated the reading public. What is the appeal of the occult novel? What kind of freedom from the ordinary does it provide, both for readers and writers?

Vampires are relative newcomers among the supernatural creatures who have fascinated readers. The word “vampire” wasn’t even used in English-speaking countries until the early eighteenth century. Before that, readers were far more interested in ghosts, devils, witches, daemons (and demons), and exotic hybrid creatures like dragons and the basilisk. The appeal of all these creatures—and vampires, too—is that they help to explain the inexplicable. Readers and writers are given the opportunity to suspend belief and wonder How do I know there aren’t witches? and even more important What if there are?

Q. Diana and Matthew’s story ends on a mysterious note. What do you see as the next step in their adventure?

Diana and Matthew have known each other only for forty days. That’s not much time to get to know someone and fall in love. Besides, falling in love is rather easy compared with staying in love and growing into a relationship. The next step of their adventure will begin just where their last step left off—and the adventure will involve all kinds of new discoveries about themselves, each other, and the creatures who share their world.

From wordswithwriters.com:

What are you working on at the moment?

While I’m on book tour, I’m working on a sequel to A Discovery of Witches. It will be a trilogy.

Where did the idea for A Discovery of Witches come from?

I was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during the rainy season, which I did not know in advance, and I was trapped inside my hotel because of the rain. It was the fall of 2008, and the world was very much obsessed with vampires. I started thinking to myself, “You know, if there really are vampires, what do they do for a living?” I didn’t believe they could all be private investigators. That’s what led me into the book, and I started building a world around the answering of that question.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

It’s really a book about accepting who you are and not living in a way that closes off options or that is safe. Living in way that takes risks—the power that is in daring to do what it is that you are uniquely meant to do.

How long was your playlist?

145 songs. Some of them are on my website. [On the page titled “The Characters”] There are links to YouTube playlists for songs on Diana’s iPod and songs on Matthew’s iPod. And, largehearted boy published a playlist for A Discovery of Witches.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I know that a lot of advice says to read, but I would say to write. What I see as a teacher a lot is people preparing to write, people doing research to write, people finding the right chair to write in, people thinking of the right time of day to write. You really just have to actually write. It’s scary and it’s awful, there’s a blank screen or blank page, but you really just need to write.

Write about anything, write about everything, write blogs. At some point something will start clicking and snapping, and if you’re still trying to arrange your desk the way you want it, you’re going to waste it.

Is there a question that you wish people would ask you more often about your work?

I wish more people would ask, “Why did you choose to do blank?” People have an incredibly emotional response to fiction. You read it and think, “I don’t like this, I don’t like that, I don’t like him or her.” Usually, writers have a reason that they’ve decided to do something. If there’s something really bugging a reader about the book, it would be interesting to have a conversation about why I’d gone that way. Not because it may solve the problem for them, but they would know that it wasn’t a thoughtless decision. It would be fascinating to discuss the decision-making process for the book.

Can you talk about the different kinds of writing you do, and how you juggle those projects?

Well, I started my wine blog accidentally, like most things I do in life. When I got stuck on my nonfiction I would switch over and work on the wine blog. I was teaching, wine-blogging, and writing A Discovery of Witches at the same time. For me, I need escape hatches. I need to be able to move around and have little changes of scenery. I only had writer’s block working on A Discovery of Witches once and I think it’s because I was doing different things.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love to cook. I am slowly working my way through Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. When you cook something, immediately it’s there. It’s wonderful; you don’t edit it, you just eat it.

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