When we left off, Diana had taken a book out of the library and was absolutely refusing to open it.
On we go:
Diana now informs us that she’s a reluctant witch. You see, she’s spent years trying to create a barrier between academic work and witchcraft. Her academic work… studying 17th century alchemy.
In a word salad, Diana tells us she’s “the last of the Bishop witches” (her surname is Bishop, we’re not yet told why this matters), and that she’s renounced her family heritage (still unclear what that is) to create a life that “depended on reason and scholarly abilities, not inexplicable hunches and spells.”
Again, let me remind you that she studies alchemy.
But Diana just called up a magic book. Which goes against her whole life’s… credo or whatever.
She continues to stand away from the book (which must look v. normal to an outside observer) so she can decide if the book is magic (which it clearly is).
Tucking my shaking hands under my elbows, I stared at Ashmole 782 in the growing twilight and wondered what to do.
That’s an interesting and not at all suspect description of the time of day in a book about vampires written in 2011. Just a normal time of day that anyone might mention. In a book about vampires. In 2011.
Anyway, still refusing to open the book, Diana tells us a bit about her mom:
Rebecca Bishop (her mom) was a very special witch with very special powers, and was always “outmagic’ing” all the other witches at the local coven (no specifics given). Diana has an aunt named Sarah who is also a witch, but her powers are less special — mostly just potions and stuff. Basic shit. Either way, everyone in Diana’s hometown is aware of the Bishop Witches, descended from Bridget Bishop, the first witch executed at Salem.
There’s something uncomfortable about using the death of a real woman (Bridget Bishop really was the first person executed at Salem for witchcraft) and then tying her death to… actual witchcraft. Since the real-world history lesson of witch trials was the inherent misogyny of men (and fellow women) classifying “troublesome women” as witches and killing them.
These books have a problematic re-imagining of history issue in general. But I’ll rant more when we get to the truly distasteful stuff.
Anyway, Diana explains that all the humans knew they were witches since the Revolutionary War, and that it was fine because the humans knew it was useful to have witches around to heal them and predict the weather.
Those are the big two, I guess.
Remember this bit about humans definitely knowing about witches as we continue.
More exposition: her mom went to Harvard, met her dad (also a witch), they both became anthropologists and then eventually had a baby (Diana, obvs).
Diana’s very special mom used her very special powers to magically fold laundry and clean dishes (feminism!). And Diana — who lived in a town where everyone knew they were witches — once told a friend’s mom that her mom could do magical dishes, and the friend’s mom looked suspicious about it.
That’s when her parents told her she had to be careful about talking to humans about magic because:
Humans outnumbered us and found our power frightening, my mother explained, and fear was the strongest force on earth.
But they all know! What are you talking about?
Not sure. Because next, Diana comes back to the present and looks at the book.
She touches the book.
It’s still kind of prickly.
And then she… stops touching the book and starts to look through her other books.
For fuck’s sake.
She roots around to look for a piece of paper that describes the book that she’s absolutely refusing to open:
Anthropologia, or a treatis containing a short description of Man in two parts, the first Anatomical, the second Psychological.
Great. Now open the fucking book.
My fingers might be able to tell me about the book without even cracking open the covers.
No, just — please just open it.
Instead, she tells us Aunt Sarah used to be able to read her mail without opening it because of witchcraft, and that maybe Diana can read this book without opening it. Because Diana never does witchcraft except when she does. Cool. Great.
Diana takes her seat, but she’s not going to open the book (obviously). She’s going to weigh her options. Those options being:
Ignore the magic, open the manuscript, and try to read it like a human scholar?
Push the bewitched volume aside and walk away?
What will she choose?
Doesn’t matter. We get more backstory.
Diana once overheard some witches at her parents’ funeral saying that her parents died because they were too powerful. This is why she turned her back on magic. Her aunt tried to teach her some magic, but Diana just couldn’t seem to perform any spells even though she was clearly powerful (a foreshadowing!).
Diana went off to college at 16 because she’s also a genius with a photographic memory (and definitely not a Mary Sue). She went into the school’s theater department (a natural transition), and her first few performances were:
heralded by [her] professors as extraordinary examples of the way good acting could transform an ordinary college student into someone else.
Diana tells us that her extraordinary performances would make her hair grow long (?) and that all of the men in the theater department wanted to fuck her. Because of magic I guess. Also, she casually drops in that she started going crazy and was taking the cast down with her into the depths of her insanity.
She yadda yaddas that bit, so I guess we will, too.
Anyway, scared of her spectacular acting ability in a college theater program, she cut her hair short, started wearing turtlenecks, and got into history. Big Steve Jobs energy.
She graduated with Honors at 20 (of course), and decided to pursue a graduate degree in the history of science, which we already know.
Aunt Sarah laughed at Diana choosing alchemy as a history subject when she wants to avoid magic (well, yeah). Diana disagrees. This is… all fairly boring, as you can tell. But let me just say: bitch you’re literally a witch.
How can you study history — of literally any era — in a world where witches exist without ever encountering witchcraft? Literally how? That makes no sense??
But Diana needs to be a reluctant witch for the plot, so we go with it.
Diana tells us she got tenure at Yale (!) because she churned out two books (!!), and won a bunch of prizes and grants (!!!). What were the books about? Who knows. How did she write two books in roughly 10-ish years while also teaching undergrad classes on an adjunct salary in her early-to-mid-20s? Doesn’t matter. This is the real fantasy, baby.
Oh, and then Diana drops in that she actually does use magic sometimes when her washing machine breaks. Even though she can’t do spells, but sometimes she can do spells.
Anyway, now… finally… Diana has made her decision.
What will she choose? Will she open the book? Will she not open the book?
You’ll have to find out… next time.
(I really hope she opens the book!!!)
Yell at me in the comments.