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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: All Souls (1)

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3,800None1,363 (3.78)263
2011 (59) 2012 (38) alchemy (93) daemons (62) demons (52) ebook (59) England (54) fantasy (353) fiction (362) France (32) history (44) Kindle (47) library (25) magic (137) novel (27) Oxford (83) paranormal (107) paranormal romance (27) read (44) read in 2011 (41) read in 2012 (35) romance (126) series (37) supernatural (76) time travel (47) to-read (148) urban fantasy (53) vampires (363) witchcraft (43) witches (357)
  1. 162
    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (clamairy)
    clamairy: Similar themes of magic and academia.
  2. 131
    The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (bnbookgirl)
  3. 143
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Anonymous user, SunnySD)
    Anonymous user: Both are epic fantasy novels...time travel, mystery, unlikely love interests.
  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. 44
    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. 1015
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (happyhinsons)

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English (354)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (2)  Hungarian (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (364)
Showing 1-5 of 354 (next | show all)
Stellar read! Book 1 of the planned All Souls trilogy, the 2nd is due out in 2012. I'll be impatiently waiting for it. In this book we meet Diana Bishop, the last of the Bishop witches, who has a doctorate in history, as she is working on a project. Things begin to unravel in Diana's life when she calls a very old book from the Oxford, England college library as part of her research into alchemy & it's origins. Ashmole 782 is a book of legend, that has been missing for 150 years. It also is bewitched, with spells on it that have made it impossible for anyone to get in it very far. Enter Matthew Clairmont, a 1500 year old vampire, & he is not your "classic" vampire. He believes that there are basic commonalities that unite the witches, vampires, daemons, & humans, & his project is to map the genomes of each race, to find out the origins of each.

This is a book that will knock out the stereotypes of all of the supernatural races, while taking you on a romantic & adventure filled ride filled with good guys who we wouldn't think of as good guys, & bad guys who are truly evil, & forming some surprising alliances along the way. ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Dr. Diana Bishop, descendant of the famous Bridget Bishop of Salem, Massachusetts, turned her back on her natural powers after her parents were killed when she was a child. Instead, she relied on her brain power, went to Oxford and Yale, and became a well-known researcher in the field of history of science. Now she’s back at Oxford, spending the year studying old alchemical texts archived at the Bodleian Library. But when she calls the book known as Ashmole 782 from the stacks, she can feel its power and she can see hidden writing moving on its pages. It frightens her a bit and she notices that soon after returning it to the stacks, she’s attracted the attention of many creatures — vampires, daemons, and other witches — who are suddenly hanging around the Bodleian. One vampire in particular, Matthew Clairmont, an attractive professor of biochemistry and neuroscience, just won’t leave her alone. What is so special about Ashmole 782 and why are all these creatures hoping she’ll call it back?

After reading the blurbs about A Discovery of Witches, this was a book I was eagerly waiting for. I love academic settings (especially Oxford), old libraries, and the blend of history and science. And I did enjoy much of A Discovery of Witches for this reason. Diana Bishop is an urban fantasy heroine that I can relate to. She spends her time in libraries instead of tattoo parlors; she prepares lectures and writes letters of recommendation instead of training with weapons and kicking peoples’ butts. I understood her goals and interests and the way that her focus on academic pursuits makes her slightly awkward and absent-minded elsewhere. I was also much intrigued by Matthew Clairmont’s genetic research into the evolution of witches, vampires, and daemons and how this related to Diana’s research in alchemy.

Thus, A Discovery of Witches had a lot of potential for me, but there were three problems that sapped my enjoyment:

The first is that the book is simply way too long. With nearly 600 pages to work with, Deborah Harkness should have been able to get these interesting ideas farther off the ground. I was frustrated that, by the end, it had become clear that A Discovery of Witches is the first novel in a series. In this first installment, Harkness carefully develops the characters and sets up the romance. There is a lot of sitting in the library, hanging around various houses, talking, drinking tea, and eating. The story covers only about a month of time and I think I witnessed nearly everything Diana ate and drank during that month.

Secondly — and this is a common problem for me in urban fantasies — I couldn’t appreciate the romance which dominated the plot. Vampires are just not sexy to me and I had a hard time believing that an overprotective, angry, admittedly murderous vampire would be attractive to an independently-minded academic. Not to mention that his body is cold and his heart beats only rarely. He spends a lot of time growling, bossing her around, speaking roughly, giving everyone dark looks, and displaying mate-guarding behaviors — steering her around by her elbow and with his hand at the small of her back, hovering over her, blocking her path, pushing her up against barriers, “scooping” her up, tossing her on horses, grabbing her by the chin and twisting her neck, telling her she’ll catch cold if she sits on the ground (a guy who sequences DNA thinks that sitting on the ground will make her sick?). He even binds her with an oath without her permission. I find this kind of behavior in a courting male insufferable. This is a common problem for me, and one of the reasons I don’t read much vampire lit, but I wasn’t expecting to encounter this issue in such magnitude in a book about a famous researcher from Oxford and Yale. I know she’s scared of what’s going on in her life, but where is this woman’s self-respect? In some ways, A Discovery of Witches felt like Twilight for middle-aged academics. The most unbelievable part of the entire romance, though is that [removed spoiler — Read it here.]

Thirdly, there are a lot of minor plot issues that just don’t fit into a well-developed fantasy, especially once we leave the academic atmosphere of Oxford and the book starts to feel like Harry Potter. Magic in this world seems arbitrary. We’re told that each power has a genetic marker, which is cool, but its practice is not sufficiently explained. It’s the snap-your-fingers-to-clean-the-dishes, close-your-eyes-and-concentrate-to-fly type. Sparks fly from Diana’s fingers, she cries rivers of tears, witchfire bursts from her outstretched arm. She is suddenly accumulating a host of new skills that make her the most powerful witch alive, but she doesn’t respond with the awe we’d expect. When she finds out that she can time-travel, she practically shrugs it off (and the physics of time-travel don’t even try to make sense).

I truly enjoyed the first part of A Discovery of Witches — the relatable heroine, the university setting, the focus on the history of science. But once the romance got going and we left Oxford, A Discovery of Witches lost its charm. I’m still curious about the blend of genetics, evolution, and alchemy, but the long sick romance dominated this intriguing mystery and the plot could not hold up against it. I may take a look at the sequel, though, just because I really want to know what’s inside Ashmole 782.

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
So, I totally and utterly loved this book. As in, devoured it, despite the very limited reading time I currently have. Did it screw up some basic evolutionary principles? Yes. Did I have to skip a few parts because I found myself going "ack! Not how science works!!"? Yes. Still, totally and utterly loved it. I know there are a few reasons why: I love history. I adore Oxford. I have a soft spot for immortal creatures and all they've seen. And I really liked Diana's voice. Well, more so at the start of the novel when she seems much more put together and stronger than later on (and even though I totally understand what broke her down, I found myself wanting to tell her, "hey, you are a strong person--act like it!" (I apparently had a lot of conversations with these pages!) Anyhow, overall, very fun read, and I can't wait to check out the next one, because hello Time Travel! ( )
  Meradeth | Mar 23, 2014 |
This book was awesome, but I really hope there is a sequel because the end left me wondering what's going to happen next ( )
  Steph1203 | Mar 14, 2014 |
I quit at page 210. This is the second time I've given A Discovery of Witches a go, and I made it a good deal further in than the first time, when I think I stopped around page forty. I like the story well enough (I find these modern vampires and witches and whatnot premises kind of neat, provided they're handled well) and the characters seem to have potential, but I swear not one important plot point has happened in the 170 pages I've read beyond where I quit the first time. There's been a little development of the romance in that time (which is decent, but not enough to carry that much narrative), but beyond that it's pretty much "hey, that plot point from before, look, it's still important," "Lookie, the whole mystery deal, it's still mysterious," "you know that danger? It's still out there dangering." I was really hoping this was going to be a fun, intriguing, lightish read, but dash.
  lycomayflower | Mar 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 354 (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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It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.
For Lexie and Jake, and their bright futures.
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The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable.
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.
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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.

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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