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A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah…
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A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (edition 2011)

by Deborah E. Harkness

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4,4154171,110 (3.77)298
Member:rachelfoster
Title:A Discovery of Witches: A Novel
Authors:Deborah E. Harkness
Info:Viking Adult (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 592 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:favorites

Work details

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Recently added byprivate library, Sarah_Beaudette, SnarkyChick, KTQ, MustHaveFiction, RCW
  1. 182
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» See also 298 mentions

English (404)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (2)  Hungarian (2)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  French (1)  All languages (414)
Showing 1-5 of 404 (next | show all)
I hate to say it, but I’m a little wishy washy on this one. I was really excited to discover this series, but there were some overall issues that prompted me to rate this 3 stars. I was hoping it would be one of those big books (592 pages) you could get really absorbed in, but the pacing was off.

Diana Bishop is a history of alchemy scholar and a witch, although she never uses her powers, and has never really learned how to use them, or control them. Being a witch is what got her parent’s killed, along with other Bishops over the last 500 years, so she refuses to use her magic. Until she meets vampire Matthew Clairmont.

The premise is interesting, and I was fully engaged at the beginning, but then it started to slow down…almost to a halt, where we were treated to descriptions of Diana’s day. She got up, she ate, she napped, she ate, she went to bed. For some reason Diana has a voracious appetite, with no explanation. In one chapter she eats 9 pieces of toast in one sitting.

There were a few times I thought I might not finish it, since it was moving so slowly. Then something interesting would happen and I’d stick it out a little longer…. which was the pattern throughout the book. So much of the story could have been bypassed that had no real bearing on the plot.

Things start out with her in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, researching old world texts. She comes off as a very interesting character, and extremely smart and knowledgeable about her subject. She is requesting books from the librarians that are hundreds of years old for her research. One book in particular plays into the mystery surrounding Diana’s parents, their death, the extent of Diana’s witch powers, and the future of all races. Humans, Vampires, Witches and Daemons.

Diana starts out as a likable character, if a bit high strung, and Matthew is a supposedly sexy, sweet, yet commanding Vampire who is constantly telling Diana she needs to sleep or eat. Diana basically becomes a puppet with Matthew pulling the strings.

The drawn out love affair gets a little cheesy at some points, and I did skim a bit during those moments. For instance they consider themselves married and bound to each other after only a few weeks, and then address each other as husband and wife, (for example. “Husband, could you hand me the salt?”) yet they hadn’t even had sex at that point. Diana refers to Matthew’s “son” (born of his blood, not by birth and is a thousand years old) to be her son as well and refers to him as “our son”. It just seemed too soon for that, considering the small amount of time they’d known each other. Very unrealistic, even for a book about vampires and witches.

When Diana starts to learn about her magic, she also needs to learn spell casting, but I found it odd that she was no good at it, and invariably garbles up the spell or can’t remember how it goes. Yet she could quote, (and often did) from memory, different passages from many old, obscure books, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

The writing is above average, and the premise is good, but I hadn’t decided if I was going to read the next book, until this one ended on a cliff hanger. The book engaged me enough, despite it’s slowness, that I’d like to know how they end up. But I will definitely need a break before I read the next one since it’s 593 pages as well. ( )
  MustHaveFiction | Apr 11, 2015 |
Excellent story -- a grown-ups witch story without the lust and sex that often accompanies a paranormal romance.

The only problem??? I devoured the book rather than savored it. This calls for a mandatory reread! ( )
1 vote olongbourn | Mar 1, 2015 |
An American witch working at University in Oxford, England, forms a bond with a vampire doctor, upsetting the coundil of demons, witches and vampires and threatening not only themselves, but the balance between the species. ( )
  lilibrarian | Feb 23, 2015 |
For me, this book had it all ... witches, vampires, a mystery, brooding characters .... what an excellent start to a trilogy.
From the first pages when we meet Diana at the Oxford Bodleian Library through her visits to France and finally her home in America, I was swept up with the adventure and the twists and turns of what she discovers. I especially enjoyed the description of her time in Oxford and could imagine myself in the library with her. It did, obviously, end on a bit of a cliff hanger so I need to read the second part to find out what happened next but this won't be too difficult based on how well the first part was written and how the story moved along. An excellent read if witchcraft, vampires and daemons are your sort of thing. ( )
  autumngirl70 | Feb 15, 2015 |
This book was a pleasure to read. I enjoyed the chemistry between the two man characters, Matthew and Diana. It was well written without being overboard. The feelings and chemistry these two have is also well explained so you don't feel like you're watching two strangers suddenly fall in love for no reason.

When students asked what I was reading that I was intrigued by I told them that it's a story about the four creatures on earth, vampires, daemons, witches and humans. They immediately said, "oh, like Twilight." I responded, "sort of but much better!"

The science behind or because of the magic is well integrated into the story line. i found myself looking up additional information on DNA and mitochondrial DNA because my curiosity was peeked!

I was also pleased with the end of the story because it wasn't rushed or forced. I'm looking forward to the next installment. ( )
  slsmitty25 | Feb 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 404 (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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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