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A discovery of witches by Deborah E.…

A discovery of witches (edition 2019)

by Deborah E. Harkness

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6,989577841 (3.78)364
Title:A discovery of witches
Authors:Deborah E. Harkness
Info:New York : Penguin Books, 2019.
Collections:Your library

Work details

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

  1. 203
    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (clamairy)
    clamairy: Similar themes of magic and academia.
  2. 215
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Anonymous user, SunnySD)
    Anonymous user: Both are epic fantasy novels...time travel, mystery, unlikely love interests.
  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. 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.
  6. 10
    The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones (debbiereads)
  7. 21
    City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte (thenothing)
    thenothing: alchemy, time travel, romance, mystery
  8. 21
    Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell (SunnySD)
    SunnySD: Scholarly heroines, mysterious goings on, and much time spent in libraries...
  9. 11
    A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter (Friederike.Geissler)
  10. 00
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (tralliott)
  11. 79
    The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (bookwyrmm)
  12. 1519
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (happyhinsons)
  13. 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 364 mentions

English (563)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (3)  Hungarian (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (574)
Showing 1-5 of 563 (next | show all)
Damn this book was good! ( )
  nicoleolea | Jun 12, 2019 |
A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. In this series, Harkness has created a very detailed world, where Daemons, Witches and Vampires coexist with humans. Diana is a witch and a scholar, currently doing research in Oxford. While at the Bodleian Library, Diana comes into contact with an old book, Ashmole 782. After returning the book to the library, she learns that the book is an object that is much sought after by the supernatural community. The book has been lost to the ages and Diana is the first to "call" the book in centuries. Unfortunately, Diana is unable to call the book again.

This doesn't stop other witches, daemons and vampires from stalking her, attempting to learn the secret of Ashmore 782. One particular vampire, Matthew, forges a connection with Diana, and soon they are involved in a forbidden romance. As the book continues, they explore their growing feelings for each other, while Matthew also tries to protect Diana from the growing threat of the other supernaturals.

I had a really hard time deciding how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it is a pretty interesting book. It is a testament to the authors skill that I wanted to keep reading, even when nothing much was happening, because the writing was so good. On the other hand, for long stretches of time there is not much going on. The book is highly descriptive. Long passages are devoted to food and eating, and to exercise, history lessons and old castles. At times I was just wanting something, anything to happen. The book flirts with scientific explanations, such as the DNA markers for witchcraft, but it never really goes into enough depth on this. The two scenes where Diana is being attacked are really the only excitement in the book.

So I have several complaints about the book. But I still enjoyed it. It had so much promise, and I can see how this could be a great series. It is just a little disappointing that the book didn't live up to it's potential. I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. ( )
  readingover50 | Jun 11, 2019 |
Contains Spoilers!

I loved this book, completely and totally loved it. In fact, the only disappointment I had was finding after I'd finished that it was published in 2011, therefore I would have to wait at least a year to get the next book! *sigh*

Did you read Twilight? Did you like it? Because, this is WAY better. The writing is infinitely better (I know, right? That isn't necessarily saying much. But, the writing is good.) The story is better, the characters are stronger. I never once wished Diana would just die already so the whining would stop! (Which I felt all the way through New Moon re: Bella.) Besides that, the characters are just so much more developed. Harkness did her homework and put a lot of historical references in the book building quite a life for 1500 year old Matthew. Sure, there are some things you could complain are "unrealistic". Would I be okay with a man referring to me as his wife just because I said I loved him and he said he loved me? No, probably not. But, that's the beauty of Fantasy / Paranormal, heck, Fiction!

Also, this was not written for kids, the G rating of Twilight is taken up a couple of notches. It's not raunchy or "bodice ripper" type, but it's for sure more steamy than Edward and Bella. (Which I know some of you complained about...Kim.)

I do have to warn you that I was not immediately engaged however. My older sister assigned this book, rather forcefully...a couple of times. So, I ordered it for my Nook, to get her to leave off! About a dozen pages in I was thinking, "*yawn* Seriously, Erin?" I often get that way with the start of a good book though, when the ground is being laid, I get a little impatient. I put the book down after those first pages and didn't pick it up again for two, maybe three weeks. I'd had two bad starts since Solstice Wood and I was determined to make the best of this damn book! I would say that somewhere around page 50 I got into it and by 100 I was having to remind myself not to speed read, but slow down and enjoy it! The Mr. started calling himself "The Book Widower" (Which he likes to do whenever I find a REALLY good book and won't put it down.) again. So, when you read it (and you must ), make sure you remember you just have to get through that first bit for background information and then, then she'll set the hook in ya.

Edit: Sorry, I forgot to say...the story is also a very thinly veiled message that no one should be able to tell you who to love. In the story it's witches loving vampires and daemons loving daemons born to witches etc... But, Aunt Sarah is a lesbian and Matthew's best bud Hamish is gay. So, you do the math. Personally, I'm not one to try to read much into the intended deeper philisophical or moral "message". But, it's there and obvious. ( )
  Amelia1989 | Jun 10, 2019 |
I picked up A Discovery of Witches because it was described as Twilight for adults, but after reading it, I can definitely say that is not an accurate comparison. A Discovery of Witches contains a highly fleshed out world of politics, magic, and history. If you are picking up this book for it’s paranormal and fantasy aspects from romance to action, then it’s quite safe to say you might not enjoy this.

What I Enjoyed

The author, Deborah Harkness is a historian herself and when you read A Discovery of Witches, you can definitely see her passion and knowledge in the text. The book is full of history and discussions concerning alchemy and theosophy which I found completely fascinating. There’s a sense of a strong pollical system and structure of the different creatures: witches, vampires, and demons that made the world and story feel real. I was quite invested in this world and mystery behind Diana’s powers and her forbidden love story. However, I do think the author’s passion and love of historical topics did overtake the plot and character development quite a bit.

The Characters & Romance

The book is told mainly in first POV from the heroine’s POV, Diana, a brilliant historian who has turned her back on her witch powers. I found the writing could be dry at times. Unlike some first POV, it didn’t dive very deeply into Diana’s feelings. We did see a lot through her POV, but not very many emotional narrative scenes, so I never felt connected to her. But I did see it as part of her personality. She’s a bit distant, doesn't have friends, is deeply dedicated to her research and holds herself from everyone because of her family lineage.

A lot of the things that happened in the book happened to Diana. I would have liked her to be a more active protagonist. There are many things that happen to her, decisions are made for her, she doesn’t make certain decisions concerning her powers but is forced to even as a child. It didn’t bother me very much because I was invested in the plot and mystery concerning Diana’s powers. I do hope she is more active in the later books.

I still don't really understand Matthew's character; I'm hoping to get more from him in the next book. His love and fascination of Diana seems very much predestined and insta-lust/love to me. Their love is one of the catalysts that spirals the series into play. There are few mentions of why he loves Diana like her courage, but the relationship between them wasn’t enough for me. Especially from Diana’s POV. Did she fall for him because he was attractive, his alpha vibe, or his intellect? It could be a combination of both, but it wasn’t very much emphasized in the book. All of a sudden, they are confessing their love to each other. The pacing of the romance just wasn’t quite on the nose for me. However, it wasn’t quite a big deal for me since their romance isn’t quite the center plot of the book. Their love is a main plot of the book, but the romance is not.


I really enjoyed reading this book despite that long commentary on the characters and writing. I am already diving into the second book and ordered the first book in the next series about Matthew’s sired son Marcus. This book definitely is for people who love plot focused books with lots of politics and worldbuilding. If you’re going into this looking for a scorching hot paranormal/fantasy romance, you will be disappointed, but don’t let that discourage you form giving this a chance.

( )
  leighannewrites | Jun 4, 2019 |
Everyone and their next door neighbor keeps talking about this book. And maybe it eventually picks up, but the first fifty pages are so. effing. boring.
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 563 (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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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
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.

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:41 -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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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