The yellow plague is here, aka pollen season. Being my only allergy, it is a little like feeling you’re slowly dying for a few weeks. Breathing is a bit essential so it’s miserable. Thankfully I can still get some quality reading time in as well as keeping up with my bookish friends. Speaking of, there are several out in the blogosphere that have been doing link-up posts about various topics under #BookishBloggersUnite This week is Favorite Side Characters. I’ve thought about this for a few days, but I couldn’t settle on one. Initially, I looked at this as sidekicks. For instance Dr. Watson. He is a great side character, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted someone who stood out, someone who really stole the show. It needed to be someone who grew with the story and really evolved as it went in unexpected and brilliant ways.
As of today, I think I have finally found that side character. I finally started reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness a few weeks ago. It’s the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. Diana Bishop is a history professor visiting at Oxford who specializes in the history of alchemy. She stumbles across a magical book that starts to bring out her own suppressed magic that she has fought her entire life. She also stumbles upon Matthew de Clermont. A vampire who can brood with the best of them. What follows is a love story, a war, and hope for a new world. I got sucked in from the very beginning! The cast of characters expands to include several other vampires, witches, and daemons (I’m looking at you Kit Marlowe). Daemons here are the incredibly creative and sometimes a bit unruly, not the evil, glowing-eyed monsters many think of. Vampires meld into society largely unnoticed but live by their own very strict set of rules and loyalties. Then there are the witches. Some power hungry, some genial, all powerful to some degree. And the book? It could very well hold the answers to where they all came from…and how to get rid of them. It appears to have chosen Diana, but unfortunately, EVERYONE wants to get their hands on it.
The world that Harkness creates is so rich in history and characters, that it’s hard to pick just one favorite. Phillipe, the patriarch of the de Clermonts has been writing history the way he wants for as long as anyone can remember. Gallowglass is a sweet vamp whose protectiveness makes him a valuable asset. Chris, a human scientist and Diana’s best friend, doesn’t come into play until Book 3 but he isn’t afraid to put Matthew in his place and keep him in line. Any of the 16th century School Night players, Christopher Marlow/Walter Raleigh/Lord Northumberland and their brotherhood of sorts. They all play such a crucial role along the journey, but as I finished book 3 today, one character stood out as so beautifully fleshed out and spirited I knew I had found my answer.
Ysabeau if Matthew’s creator-mother and matriarch of the de Clermont family. She is stubborn, wily, loving, and clever. All along the way, she grows from a cold, hard, witch hating vampire you wouldn’t want to cross in an alley to the number one person you want with you were you to cross her in an alley. She evolves so much over all three books that you can’t help but grow to love her. At one point Matthew tries to explain to Diana that people always knew Phillipe was in charge but that Phillipe always knew it was actually Ysabeau who ran the show. He wasn’t kidding. There’s a scene late in the story when they need to get past a vamp guard. She walks right up and says “meet your grandmother” before she stabs a dagger into his heart. At the same time, she loves more fiercely than anyone else when it comes to her family despite her personal views. My heart broke for her time and again but her strength comes across on the page as clearly as if she walked into your living room.
Conveniently, she may be doing that soon. It appears it will be a tv show this fall. Matthew will be played by Matthew Goode, and if that isn’t enough to convince you to check it out, you may need your head checked. He’s a perfect choice! Why do the Brits get all the good television?! I digress. Trust me, if you want to feel allllll the feels, go check out A Discovery of Witches and hold on for the ride.