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A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: All Souls (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,704607786 (3.79)390
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)
  1. 235
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Anonymous user, SunnySD)
    Anonymous user: Both are epic fantasy novels...time travel, mystery, unlikely love interests.
  2. 203
    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (clamairy)
    clamairy: Similar themes of magic and academia.
  3. 141
    The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (bnbookgirl)
  4. 20
    Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (DowntownLibrarian)
    DowntownLibrarian: If you enjoy learning some history along with your fantasy....
  5. 21
    City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte (thenothing)
    thenothing: alchemy, time travel, romance, mystery
  6. 10
    The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones (debbiereads)
  7. 10
    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.
  8. 21
    Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (SunnySD)
    SunnySD: Scholarly heroines, mysterious goings on, and much time spent in libraries...
  9. 10
    The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen (Dariah)
  10. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (tralliott)
  11. 11
    A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Friederike.Geissler)
  12. 79
    The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (bookwyrmm)
  13. 1519
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (happyhinsons)
  14. 05
    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.
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» See also 390 mentions

English (595)  Dutch (3)  Hungarian (2)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (605)
Showing 1-5 of 595 (next | show all)
Well, that was a complete mess. Whoever was supposed to be the editor of this book severely failed at their job. I honestly don't understand how anyone allowed this novel to become published let alone who read this shit show and thought "God damn this is some good ass shit that I need to turn into a tv series. For the first 100 ish pages, I was under the impression that the story had potential that was being wasted. As I slowly moved to further parts of the book I quickly realized that all the potential I originally thought dwelled in the pages no matter how small was murdered by the author. Though I will admit that the author did her historical and scientific research.

What annoyed the shit out of me:

Diana
She is an inconsistent character. There are times where she says that she's strong and she doesn't take shit from people without challenging them and that she can protect herself only to follow all the demands that Mathew has for her without following through and obtaining important information from him that she so very much wants to know about. When it counts Diana solely relies on a man vampire who she has just met to protect her. I will admit that Diana was brave to an extent, she surprisingly kept her head through various hard times. I just think that strength isn't consistently shown in her character throughout the book. There were times where I think Deborah added a dash of temporary strength to Diana just because it fitted with how she wanted scenes to go/seem. Overall, I just hated Diana.

Mathew
Trash/waste of space vampire. I'm tired of the overprotective, you must do as I command vampires/male characters because it's a part of their instincts who are both dull and annoying trope. Matt kind of reminds me of an angry alcoholic. As you can see I liked Matt even less than Diana. P.S. stalking as well as watching a stranger sleep isn't cute.

The "Relationship"
I hated the dynamic, there was no chemistry. A relationship requires trust and communication both of which make that hard when you don't talk about your feelings and what has caused them as well as keeping unnecessary potential life-changing secrets. Matt and Dianna knew each other for 3 weeks before they proclaimed their love for each other. Other things happened to their relationship that I found unnervingly stupid. In my opinion, this just wasn't a healthy relationship.

"Plot"/writing
Honestly, the plot was thrown to the back seat and the story focused on paragraph after paragraph of Diana making tea, eating, drinking/smelling wine, exercising, studying, and taking naps. Anything manuscript related amounted to about 100-200 max pages. This ensured a repetitive lull of boredom. Because Deborah repeatedly mentions almost every little mundane thing that Diana did in her day I was surprised she didn't mention having to pee considering all the tea that was consumed by Diana.

Overall, I had a lot of issues with both Mathew and Dianna as a paring as well as themselves. The fact that the author wrote more about the smell/taste of wine and tea than the supposed plot of the story shows how dumb this novel is. ( )
  SarahRichards | Jul 4, 2020 |
I loved this book when it first came out and I have to say that my re-read of this was painful. Why did I like this so much? Did I not see that Matthew was uber possessive which is my least favorite hero trait? The constant endearments in French may me roll my eyes. Also the Mary Sueness of Diana was beyond ridiculous. She gets powers on top of powers and also decides that the only thing that matters is her love for Matthew. She started to turn me off way before we get to the ending. And the way that Harkness just drops how pretty much Matthew met every historical figure you can think of in this one (it gets worse in book #2) it started to get even more ridiculous. There are info dumps galore and besides some of the historical aspects of this book, this is just "Twilight" for adults with no sparkly vampires.

"A Discovery of Witches" follows Diana Bishop. Diana is living in England and while at Oxford, ends up requesting a book, but a book that comes to her is a bewitched alchemical manuscript. When Diana touches the book something starts happening to her. After this, a vampire comes calling named Matthew Clairmont, who is a a vampire geneticist. Yes, this is a real thing I guess. In this world we have vampires, witches, and daemons just hanging out. Matthew is interested in the book since there seems to be some issue with vampires not being able to turn people without the person being turned dying.

I will say something nice here. The parts with Diana and Matthew in Oxford were really good. I forgot how much I loved that part. And it reminds me a bit of how Pullman played/changed up things in "His Dark Materials" when we follow Lyra at Oxford. But after that the book just drops down to repetitive and boring.

Diana and Matthew are quickly on the run from a magical organization and are in France and then Massachusetts hiding out (barely) with their families. I just didn't care about Diana's parents secret, or her magic. The whole book was pretty much Diana and Matthew constantly reaffirming their love and then them obsessing when one of them wasn't in the same room with each other. Also why are these two together? I didn't get deep and lasting love at all initially and then somehow they were just in thrall with each other. I just don't know. There's no there there. Diana somehow becoming super witch made me think about Katrina from Sleepy Hollow and how she was seriously the worse witch ever. Oh there's also vampire yoga which I never want to read about again.

I can't say much about the other characters. We get glimpses of them and that makes me sad. When I first read this, I loved the idea behind Matthew's "mother," "son," etc. And this book only makes them characters who give info-dumps throughout this book. I really wanted someone to shake both Matthew and Diana and tell them to get over themselves.

The writing started off well, but then it just tapers off slowly until we get to the end where I was going is it over yet? No? Another freaking chapter? I forgot how long this book is (594 pages) and it really really needed edited down. A lot. And don't get me started on the whole hey species can't really be with each other sexually and have kids which someone got overly explained via DNA, chemistry, and then alchemy which resulted in me not giving one crap. That was pretty much the whole book. We get told something via a character and then somehow the rules get thrown out five minutes later (see vampires and witches can't marry). It got aggravating after a while. Also there's like I think three secret organizations referenced in this damn book. I could not after a while.

The flow was awful after a while. It's just Matthew and Diana running off, her getting kidnapped, hurt, healing, Matthew calling her a lion or whatever that was, and then Diana and Matthew listening as people told them well now this is happening and or now this is what this means while drinking tea.

The setting of the book from Oxford, France, Massachusetts just started to run together after a while. The Bishop family house and ghosts were cool though. That's all I got.

The ending ends on a cliffhanger (which I hate) and we know we have to follow the second book to see what happens next. ( )
1 vote ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
"Just because something's impossible doesn't mean it's untrue."

Of all things I might say about this book, this quote is by far the most apt for my reading of it: I fully expected that it'd be impossible for me both to truly enjoy a book about creatures (vampires, daemons, witches) that have been so often written about and enjoy a relative romance at the same time. I'm a fond and often lover of creature-featuring fantasy, but it seems that there's rarely been a spin on these popular creatures and the stories relating to them that can't take me by surprise, or isn't dripping with stereotypes. In the case of Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself swept along. I'd thought it'd be nearly impossible for me to enjoy this book as much as I did, and yet it was pleasantly devoured in a little under two weeks!

First things first, I must say that this is not a book to rush through, despite all of the plot elements that Harkness intertwines. Many can seem unrelated at first, and did to me: the mystery that is the missing pages of Ashmole 782, the collective geneology of all creatures, unlocking Diana's magic and Matthew's past. All of these could hardly seem connected, and I give Harkness a hearty round of applause for tying each element together so well, while fleshing her characters out alongside. I found myself at turns laughing, fascinated, and purely enjoying this book. Perhaps it isn't the revelatory, mind-wrenching punch in the guts that come from a Donna Tartt novel or a 'classic,' but A Discovery of Witches need only rely on its rich plot and world, constantly twisting and revealing itself like hidden messages in a magical manuscript. What I've loved the best is finding the quirks in Harkness' depictions of these common creatures, down to the smallest details: how vampires can eat candied nuts and have an extraordinary fondness for wine, how the house in Madison developed its own personality around its guests, the magnetic sparkle of a daemon's personality. This is part of what was truly enjoyable about this novel, and what I hope I'll continue to love in the others: Harkness creates a truly new, likeable, and thoroughly enjoyable spin on common creatures that we've known from countless tales.

Hold on tight, try not to rush through the ever-thickening plot, and if you're of age, this seems to be a book that demands devouring with a thick blanket, warm fire, alcoholic beverage (wine?) of your choice, and dark chocolate. For the rest of us, swap out the wine for a well-brewed mug of tea, and imagine it's Marthe's from Sept-Tours. This was a lovely, fun read for the winter, and I was surprised just how much I enjoyed the romantic parts, as a picky reader! I know I'll be happy to follow Diana and Matthew into the next books.

*Edit: I came back and gave another star to this book in reflection. It’s too addictive not to warrant it. ( )
  priorfictions | Jun 24, 2020 |
Re-Read 12/15/17:

Beyond what I said in my original review, I really enjoyed all the interwoven devices that carry all the way through all three books. I knew I'd enjoy a re-read even as I finished the third book since there are so many great historical details as well as more developed characters, later on, but I think I may have enjoyed this novel more this time around purely for its own sake.

Just knowing what happens at the end and where Diana winds up is good enough to chortle over, all by itself. :) The next is pure historical fiction, of course. :) What a delight!


Original Review:

What a surprising find. Sure, I expected a decent urban fantasy, but I hadn't expected a tome redolent of history, alchemy, and even Templar conspiracies. In retrospect, I wish that all urban fantasy novels had more history and alchemy and Templar conspiracies. The past is rich and full of just as much intrigue as anything we've got today, after all, and denying the fact won't make so many modern novels better.

It's true that I expected a novel with a scholarly feel, and it's equally true that I expected a witch with equal parts frailty and overpowered magic, but unlike a number of completely unfair reviews, I didn't have a problem with characters that displayed actual human complexities. The overpowered magic was nothing of the sort. I saw a novel-long setup and decent foreshadowing.

The time in the novel is ripe for a big change, and I love the story's fearlessness. I'm fully invested in each and every character that has shown up and feel how alive they are. The novel deserves high praise much thought. At this point, I'm pretty sure we're seeing the (re)birth of a goddess, and the ride is as important as the destination. The writing is so finely honed that I have no problems at all with the introduction of new power and new twists because even at the very beginning there were finely woven threads that reinforced all revelations.

I can't wait to read the next two. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I really wanted to like this.

And then came pages of creepy, kinda-abusive potential lover who stalks her and their insta-love. She goes from wisely wary of him to suddenly trusting, for no very good reason. (Hey, maybe he's LYING about keeping the other people away, eh? Maybe they work for him or something.) Oh, and he admires how her ~hair contains all the hair colors~.

Then came all the possessive jealous controlling behavior, tipping right into the paranormal-abusive-male-romantic lead mold. E.g. the horseback riding.

Straws that broke the camel back:
Vampire-Mom who hates hates hates humans? Leads to a somewhat chilly, stilted, but polite evening their first meeting; begrudgingly charmed mother-in-law figure thereafter. (Oh, and ditto for vampire-brother.) Shortly thereafter? The memory of now-deceased mother telling a bedtime story about "the princess" meeting her (vampire) "prince."

And the book was only half-done at this point. Nope nope nope. This is Twilight for adults who like wine and libraries. ( )
  elam11 | May 30, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 595 (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 (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harkness, Deborahprimary 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
Discovering a magical manuscript in Oxford's library, scholar Diana Bishop, a descendant of witches who has rejected her heritage, inadvertently unleashes a fantastical underworld of daemons, witches and vampires whose activities center around an enchanted treasure." - NoveList Plus
Haiku summary
Witches, vampires
and daemons all want to read
book on alchemy.
(passion4reading)

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