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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: All Souls (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,9453751,301 (3.77)279
2011 (59) 2012 (40) alchemy (99) audiobook (25) daemons (62) demons (53) ebook (62) England (58) fantasy (375) fiction (379) France (33) history (46) Kindle (52) magic (144) novel (27) Oxford (88) paranormal (114) paranormal romance (28) read (48) read in 2011 (44) read in 2012 (35) romance (135) series (41) supernatural (82) time travel (49) to-read (175) urban fantasy (56) vampires (371) witchcraft (43) witches (367)
  1. 182
    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (clamairy)
    clamairy: Similar themes of magic and academia.
  2. 153
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Anonymous user, SunnySD)
    Anonymous user: Both are epic fantasy novels...time travel, mystery, unlikely love interests.
  3. 131
    The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (bnbookgirl)
  4. 00
    Overseas by Beatriz Williams (rlb0616)
    rlb0616: No witches or vampires, but it does have time travel. Also, there are many similarities between the two male leads.
  5. 11
    Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (SunnySD)
    SunnySD: Scholarly heroines, mysterious goings on, and much time spent in libraries...
  6. 45
    The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (bookwyrmm)
  7. 04
    Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott (Mumugrrl)
    Mumugrrl: Not the same kind of feel as A Discovery of Witches, but it does involve Oxford, alchemy and the ghost of Isaac Newton.
  8. 1016
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (happyhinsons)
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» See also 279 mentions

English (365)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (2)  Hungarian (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (374)
Showing 1-5 of 365 (next | show all)
A weak 3 stars. This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I liked the fantasy element with a play on history and evolution. And I found the protagonist, Diana, to be fairly compelling; physically strong, intelligent, and feisty. At first. Then she meets a vampire and after approximately three weeks they fall in love, obviously. From that point on, she essentially devolves into a tearful, spineless teenager. The whole "I'm a man and I must protect you" and "I'm a lady and I just might die if you leave me alone for two days" thing irked me in Twilight, and it irked me here. Perhaps even more so, as these were supposedly adults and not actual teens.
However, while this may have needed an editor, it was substantially more interesting and better written than Twilight. I may have spent a good portion of it rolling my eyes, but it was a decent mindless, escapist read and I will probably be silly and read the other two. ( )
  LaurenMae85 | Jul 14, 2014 |
This is a difficult book to classify. We might call it Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Historical Fiction, Suspense, but I think I will go with them all. The same can be said of book two in this trilogy A Shadow of Night. I wanted to review both of them, as the third and final book The Book of Life has a publishing date of July 15 of this year.

So, to start at the very beginning.. we meet up with Diana Bishop, is a professor from Yale who is studying ancient texts of alchemy in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Diana is no ordinary professor, as she is descended from the first witch to lost her life during the Salem Witch Trials. Magic has always been a part of the background Diana's life, although she might deny that. She refused to study it with her family as a young girl and has carried on without it for years, making her own way by her own intelligence and her own persistence. Or, so she tries to believe. During the days she has spent in the library, she has called up several of the ancient books, and quite unwittingly a long lost manuscript That appears in the stack of her requested books one day. She didn't even have to touch to to know that it was enchanted. Since she tries to avoid magic, at first she considers simply returning it, but the researcher and historian in her can't help but to take a look. Thus starts a chain of events that will change her life forever.

She soon meets up with the incredibly dashing and as it turns out, irresistible Matthew Clairmont, who also just happens to be watching her as she pulls another volume from the shelves. The fact that he is clearly a vampire doesn't escaper her notice, but when she finds out that he is also over 1,500-years-old and extremely powerful shocks even Diana Bishop, who is used to being surrounded by unusual folks. He is the catalyst, of course. Things soon begin to move forward at a dizzying pace. This is a great edge of the seat read, and the twists and turns are masterful! It's hard to put this one down. ( )
  mckait | Jun 28, 2014 |
There were parts where I wondered if this will be un-necessarily too long--maybe knowing that there were two more books to read and that this first book was the 'set-up' hindered the unraveling of the plot. The story itself was captivating and I found myself surprised at some revelations and others were quite predictable. The quips between the characters were definitely entertaining. As far as reading goes, its a perfect read for an afternoon/evening/morning of escaping reality. ( )
  radspd | Jun 22, 2014 |
The first book in a trilogy, A Discovery of Witches tells us the story of Diana-witch and her lover Matthew-vampire. Diana and Matthew are racing to find the meaning behind an ancient manuscript which the three major paranormal factions, witches, vampires and daemons (alas, not werewolves), all want to get a hold of.

The book was long, at close to 600 pages, and honestly the author had passages which were quite laborious and mundane. There was an abundance of historical information and references written into the book. Cleverly intertwined in to the story, some of it could have probably been edited out with no harm done to the story.

As for the novel's two protagonist, Matthew was too over protective and over bearing. Diana, portrayed as the reluctant participant to her family's ancient magical powers soon finds herself evoking a multitude of powerful magic thanks to her "super magic DNA". I felt this was over the top and ruined her character for me.

What kept the novel going for me was strictly the plot. We have here a mysterious manuscript of which people have been killed over. It seems only one person can figure out what it means and every one is out to get that one person, dead or alive. There are moments of excitement in the story and enough bad guys to put Diana and Matthew in danger forcing them to run for their lives.

I am going to read the entire trilogy because, like I said, I do like the plot. ( )
  NancyNo5 | Jun 19, 2014 |
This book was like a lukewarm bath for me. It had potential to be great, but it just didn't quite make it there. The love story didn't quite warm up enough, the magic just scratched the surface, and the story line is only a set up (yes I know it's the first of a series). I will probably pick up the sequel, but if that one doesn't pan out I probably won't read the third. ( )
  bookality | Jun 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 365 (next | show all)
"With books about fictional witches, it’s all too easy to fall back on tongue-in-cheek descriptors like “enchanting” or “spellbinding,” but both adjectives aptly describe the superbly entertaining saga Harkness has crafted. This is a riveting tale full of romance and danger that will have you on the edge of your seat, yet its chief strength lies in the wonderfully rich and ingenious mythology underlying the story. Entwining strands of science and history, Harkness creates a fresh explanation for how such creatures could arise that is so credible, you’ll have to keep reminding yourself this is fiction."
 
As will be obvious by now, this is a very silly novel. Characters and relationships are stereotyped. The historical background is a total pudding. The prose is terrible. And yet, the ideas have just enough suction, somehow, to present an undemanding reader with some nice frissons. I liked, for example, the way Diana tries to sublimate her magic powers in running and rowing and doing yoga – at a mixed vampire-witch-daemonic yoga class, participants struggle not to levitate during their vinyasas. And I liked the way Matthew and Diana smell to each other like Jo Malone candles: Diana is "horehound, frankincense, lady's mantle", Matthew is "cinnamon and clove".
 
"a thoroughly grown-up novel packed with gorgeous historical detail...Harkness writes with thrilling gusto about the magical world. Whether she's describing a yoga class for witches, daemons, and vampires or Diana's benignly haunted house, it's a treat to suspend disbelief. ... As the mysteries started to unravel, the pages turned faster, almost as if on their own. By the most satisfying end, Harkness had made me a believer.
 
"a romantic, erudite, and suspenseful first novel by Deborah Harkness. The first in a planned trilogy, it sets up blood drinkers and spell weavers as enemies for eternity in a feud as old as the Crusades; the duo confront social disapproval and intolerance as they elude evildoers and puzzle out enigmas throughout history. ...Harkness attends to every scholarly and emotional detail with whimsy, sensuality, and humor.
 
The protagonist is a witch. Her beau is a vampire. If you accept the argument that we’ve seen entirely too many of both kinds of characters in contemporary fiction, then you’re not alone. Yet, though Harkness seems to be arriving very late to a party that one hopes will soon break up, her debut novel has its merits; she writes well, for one thing, and, as a historian at the University of Southern California, she has a scholarly bent that plays out effectively here.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Dec 15, 2010)
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Deborah Harknessprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Belanger, FrancescaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goretsky, TalCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ikeda, JenniferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.
Dedication
For Lexie and Jake, and their bright futures.
First words
The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable.
Quotations
The King just sits there, moving one square at time. The queen can move so freely. I suppose I'd rather lose the game than forfeit her freedom.
´Normal`is a bedtime story - a fable - that humans tell themselves to feel better when faced with overwhelming evidence that most of what's happening around them is not ´normal`at all.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries - and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Haiku summary
Witches, vampires
And daemons all want to read
Book on alchemy.
(passion4reading)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0670022411, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, February 2011: It all begins with a lost manuscript, a reluctant witch, and 1,500-year-old vampire. Dr. Diana Bishop has a really good reason for refusing to do magic: she is a direct descendant of the first woman executed in the Salem Witch Trials, and her parents cautioned her be discreet about her talents before they were murdered, presumably for having "too much power." So it is purely by accident that Diana unlocks an enchanted long-lost manuscript (a book that all manner of supernatural creatures believe to hold the story of all origins and the secret of immortality) at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and finds herself in a race to prevent an interspecies war. A sparkling debut written by a historian and self-proclaimed oenophile, A Discovery of Witches is heady mix of history and magic, mythology and love (cue the aforementioned vampire!), making for a luxurious, intoxicating, one-sitting read. --Daphne Durham

Ten More Books for Readers of A Discovery of Witches

Interested in learning more about magic and science?

I may have written a novel, but I’m still a history professor! Here are some reading suggestions for those of you whose curiosity has been stirred up by the story of Diana Bishop, Matthew Clairmont, and the hunt for the missing alchemical manuscript Ashmole 782. All of the titles here are non-fiction, and inspired some aspect of A Discovery of Witches.

Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum: Don’t be put off by the Latin title. This is a collection of English alchemical texts that were gathered by Elias Ashmole. The missing alchemical manuscript that Diana finds in the Bodleian library is not among them, alas, but if you are interested in the subject this is a fascinating glimpse into the mysterious texts that she studies as a historian.

Janet Browne, Darwin’s Origin of Species: Books That Changed the World: Browne is not only a great scholar, but a superb writer. A highly-regarded biographer of Darwin, here she turns her talents to writing a “biography” of his most famous book—and one of Matthew Clairmont’s favorites, as well.

Owen Davies, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books. If you are interested in the history of magic and witchcraft, Davies’ description of the development of magical spellbooks will provide insights into how ideas about magic, science, and nature developed over the centuries.

Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. Diana Bishop is descended from a long line of witches. You will find out more about some of those witches—the Bishops and the Proctors—while reading this classic interpretation of what happened in Salem in 1692.

Robert Kehew, Ezra Pound, and W. D. Snodgrass, Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours. Matthew is a very old vampire, who has slightly old-fashioned views on love and romance. You might be surprised at the love poetry of his early life, and come away with a whole new appreciation for “old-fashioned.”

Bruce Moran’s Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution. This marvelous book is not only deeply learned but extremely readable. Touched with Moran’s sense of humor and his compassion for his subject’s tireless efforts to understand the natural world, you will come away from this book with a new appreciation for the alchemists.

Alexander Roob, Alchemy and Mysticism. Diana Bishop is an expert on the enigmatic imagery that is used in alchemical texts. Many are included in Roob’s book, along with other illustrations from mystical and magical traditions.

Lyndal Roper, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany. This scholarly book was important to me as I wrote A Discovery of Witches because it helped me understand how the belief in witches influenced the imagination. Many of the notions we have about witchcraft today have their roots in these terrifying fantasies.

James Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in Early Modern England. Sharpe’s book is an ideal starting point if you are interested in the history of witchcraft beyond Salem or Germany. One of his most controversial arguments focuses on the role that women played as accusers—not just as victims—in the witchcraft trials.

Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry. I was fascinated by the combination of history, genealogy, and science in Sykes’s work. The book provides an introduction to the study of genetics, and to the legacies that are carried from generation to generation among the population.

--Deborah Harkness

(Photo of Deborah Harkness © Marion Ettlinger)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:18 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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