7.2.11

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library  it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. A witch of impeccable lineage, Diana has exposed herself to a world she has kept at bay for years. Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, witches, vampires and daemons gather in Oxford, among them vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and in an shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing...


A Discovery of Witches is published by Headline this month. This book has received a lot of hype and was the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair's hottest title and Headline had to fight off 5 other interested publishers. In my humble opinion, the hype is truly deserved; this book is going to appeal to many different readers and would make a fantastic film. 
The book has a great opening:
The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable. To an ordinary historian, it would have looked no different from hundreds of other manuscripts in Oxford's Bodleian Libray, ancient and worn. But I knew there was something odd about it from the moment I collected it. 
After reading these opening lines I was completely hooked and Deborah Harkness held my attention for all 592 pages. 
Diana is a very interesting character; she is descended from two lines of New England witches. Her lineage within the witching world is almost royal yet Diana is doing everything she can to live a life free of magic. She is a respected historian and alchemist at Oxford University and it is during her studies that she calls up Ashmole 782 from the special collections. As a witch, she immediately senses that this ancient alchemical manuscript is bound in magic; she wants nothing more to do with it and sends it back to the depths of the Bodleian. However, the damage has already been done and many creatures descend on Oxford in search of Diana and her power to gain this ancient text.
In A Discovery of Witches there are humans but then there are also demons, witches and vampires living side by side in the world. Matthew Clairmont is one of these vampires, he comes to Oxford in search of Diana however he is keen to protect her rather than prey upon her. 
The relationship between Diana and Matthew is central to the book. I loved this part of the story, considering Matthew is a vampire, he is a very believable and highly desirable character. Their relationship develops throughout the book and it is very interesting as Diana has to come to terms with who she is and the power she possesses before she can completely allow him in.
Diana and Matthew's relationship angers the other creatures and they find themselves in immense danger. Matthew has to do everything he can to protect Diana and their relationship. The story becomes one of desperation and survival as their family and friends are enlisted to help protect them.
Deborah Harkness has written a thrilling book, I was so sad to get to the last page as I just wanted there to be more and more. A Discovery of Witches encompasses historical fiction, romance, mythology, fantasy and suspense. I urge you all to read this fantastic tale. 


Many thanks to Headline for sending me a coy of this book to review. 

13 comments:

verity said...

I don' think this is really my sort of book but I must read it since I work at the Bodleian! It sounds quite authentic as we do have a run of books with Ashmole shelfmarks!

Dot said...

Verity- I thought about you when I read it, most of the beginning of the book is set in Oxford and the Bodleian!

Vivienne said...

I was just thinking of Verity as I read this post! I am desperate to read it, as it is definitely my sort of thing! Love the first sentence.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Wonderful review! I think this is just the sort of book I'd read because I love a mix of mythology and history and supernaturals are fun to read about. Great cover, too.

Dot said...

Vivienne- It is so good and is going to be part of a trilogy so there will be more!

Irena- I think you would enjoy this one! I've changed the cover now, that was the American one but the one up now is the UK version. I do like the American one but I think that the British one looks more mysterious!

SusanKMann said...

I love this book. It's different and sounds so authentic. x

Charlie said...

I can't say I've been drawn to the title before, but reading the synopsis and your thoughts I'm very interested!

Dot said...

Susan- I found it to be very authentic, you could tell that the author had done a lot of research.

Charlie- That's what I'm here for!

Kim and Mona said...

Sounds interesting. Will definitely be putting this book on my shopping list now. Thanks for a great review, Dot.

Ladytink_534 said...

This was such a good book! I can't wait for the sequel :)

Dot said...

Kim- I think you would really enjoy this book, it has a little bit of everything!

Ladytink_534- nor me, I want to know what happens next!

Espana said...

The story was fast paced but not so fast that you missed details. The character were all really well developed and I adore Diana and Matthew.
This was such a good book!

vadi said...

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u



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