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The Tenth Knot

1 October, 2018 (00:15) | Books, Goggle-eyes | By: Ian Burdon

In 2012 I dropped into one of our local charity shops looking for something to read on holiday. I picked up a hardback first edition of Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches. It was a good holiday read, a page-turner, as I wrote at the time. I checked to see if she’d written any other fiction and discovered the second volume, Shadow of Night, was just published; it was waiting at home when I got back.

I saw a few snotty reviews of the first book in the press, as I often do when a new author achieves the kind of popular success with her debut novel that has unaccountably eluded the reviewer. I’ve also seen some sniffy recent reviews of the new TV show from fantasy aficionados who don’t notice that Prof. Harkness is coming from a very different place, although there are obviously fantastical elements at the core of her stories.

Anyway, this is a long way to say I enjoy reading her books, just for the pleasure of it.

With that in mind, I come to the TV adaptation of A Discovery of Witches currently showing in the UK. So far so good, is my opinion on that I think.

It is beautifully made and shot, with an excellent and committed cast. Even so, I wasn’t immediately convinced on my first viewing of episode one: it seemed to me to fall on the heavy side of exposition disguised as dialogue. With that set-up done, though, episodes two and three hit the ground running (five episodes remain).

It begins with a discovery of witches

I met Professor Harkness once–nothing special about it, I went to a reading when The Book of Life was published and stood in line to get my books signed, feeling quite self-conscious as one of the few men there. I mention this only because one day, if I ever get any further than my two published short stories, I’ll tell you about the two distinct impacts she has had on my own writing, one of which came from a very brief conversation while she signed my books.

In other TV news, The Deuce is back for season 2 and it’s just as compelling as it was in season 1. Maggie Gyllenhaal deservedly gets the plaudits but the whole cast is excellent. I also quite enjoyed the pilot of New Amsterdam, also exposition-heavy and a bit breathless but shows a lot of promise when it settles down.