Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publication: Viking Adult (February 8, 2011)

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.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

My Thoughts: It is hard to know where to begin talking about this amazing book. At first I was intimidated by its large size and dense print. But once I began it, I hated the idea of having to stop reading for unimportant things like eating, sleeping, and working. I was swept away into the life of a young woman from a heritage filled with witches who has been trying to deny that she has any abilities. She has carved out a life as a noted scholar who studies the history of science and particularly alchemy.

Her life changes beyond her wildest dreams when she calls up a book from the Bodleian Library that has been lost for centuries and has been sought after by both vampires and witches. She meets Matthew Clairmont who is a vampire and also a noted scholar at Oxford. At first she resents his interference in her life (and she has been taught that vampires and witches should never mix). He soon becomes the one person that she can trust as her life becomes chaotic.

I loved the relationship between Diana and Matthew as they got to know each and trust each other and fall in love. I also liked the historical detail and rich language in the story. I liked the references to real world books and real world characters. I liked the supernatural world that Ms. Harkness created with vampires and witches and daemons. The complex balance of power especially between the witches and the vampires made very compelling reading.

The book is filled with a large number of well-developed characters including Diana's two aunts and Matthew's mother and son. I would be eager to read more about all of their stories. The villains were very nicely creepy and scary.

I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more from the author. This book was not an easy or a quick read but it was a very rewarding read for the patient reader. The ending wasn't a cliffhanger exactly but I know there is more story out there and can't wait to read it.

Favorite Quote:
Gripping the trays edges to steady myself, I abruptly sat down.

The metal disks weren't coins or metals. They were seals--the kind used to close official correspondence and certify property transactions. A wax impression attached to an ordinary piece of paper could once have commanded armies to leave a field or auctioned off great estates.

Based on the residue, at least one seal had been used recently.


  1. Great review! I've seen this one and couldn't decide if it was for me or not. Maybe I will give it a try someday when my TBR pile isn't so big!

  2. Great Review! I totally agree with everything you said. She weaved such a compelling story that it was hard to put down. I loved all the characters (even the meanies) and felt the combination of all the elements were fantastic!

  3. I heart this book!! It has been the best book I have read so far this year..:D

  4. Thanks for a book and author new to me Kathy, have added this one to my wishing to read list!
    A book that is compelling even though tough reading sounds like one for me for sure!

    E-Book, Paperback, Hard Back? No buy link info and no page count so have to look it up....

  5. Great review indeed! Love the sound of the plot and glad to hear it's worth it. Thanks Kathy.


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