Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Book:  A Discovery of Witches
Author:  Deborah Harkness
Publisher:  Viking
Date:  Available now (sequel is available July 10, 2012)
Source:  purchased
My grade:  A

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. (Cover and description from

First impression
This is like Twilight for intellectual adults.  Deborah Harkness has corrected every one of Stephenie Meyer’s mistakes, I’m pretty sure.

Next thought
Damn!  If Matthew Clairmont were a real person, he would be perfect to play that 50 Shades of Grey guy.  Then I might actually be interested in that……

Title and cover
I love them.  The title is catchy and the cover is just paranormal enough.  It’s not screaming paranormal romance, because, well, it’s not one.  I like the cover a lot though.

Plot, characters, etc.
I knew I should have listened to Mary and Tara (2 work colleagues of mine) when they kept bugging me to read this one.  It’s just that I got bogged down last summer in that YA lit class and I still haven’t caught up with my own personal reading.  I would kick myself for not reading this sooner except for one FABULOUS fact:  I am right now in possession of the ARC for the 2nd book and I was able to actually start it as soon as I finished this one!  Yes!  For once, procrastination has paid off for me!  And I’ve only waited 42 ½ years for that to happen!

This book was incredible.  It reminded me somewhat of The Da Vinci Code and Anne Rice but Matthew Clairmont was also similar in many ways to my own beloved Edward Cullen.  Yes, he was a dark, handsome and moody vampire, but Deborah Harkness did it better than Stephenie Meyer.  Why?  She actually was able to justify Matthew’s moodiness and possessive nature in a way that did not come across as misogynistic.  And Diana was certainly no Bella.  She not only recognized these features in the vampire, but she would often fight him on them and stand up for herself.  Of course, she was a 33 year old woman instead of a 17-year old girl, so that does make a difference.

This book was a little slow to start, but it is full of all sorts of history and scholar and all the references to alchemy were very interesting to an academic nerd such as myself.    I think that the novel was a new twist on the supernatural and it was refreshing.  There’s a mystery, a romance and lots of history all mixed up together and the author keeps pulling in real history to mix with her created supernatural history and I love it when authors do that well.

Then there is Matthew Clairmont…..swoon!  He is so sexy!  If you like the brooding vampire type, you will love this one!  But he is so intelligent and mysterious!

I actually liked the whole cast of characters.  The vivid descriptions of the characters made them so easy to imagine, especially when all the creatures started coming into the library.  But the cast of main characters were varied and fun.  Diana’s aunts were great characters and I fell in love with Matthew’s family.  The evil guys were really evil and the whole 2nd part of the book just kept me turning pages non-stop.  I was really aggravated when my kids kept fighting in the car on the trip home from Florida!  Grrrrr!


Kate Bush:  Waking the Witch

Siouxsie and the Banshees:  Spellbound

Lifehouse:  You and Me

Etta James:  At Last
I thought that Matthew would prefer an old school love song for sure, and this is one of the best…..

Deborah Harkness playlist
The author released her own playlist on her facebook page to celebrate the paperback release and it’s pretty awesome.

Other considerations
I need to discuss, I suppose, the non-sex sex that happens in this book.  It is an adult book, so there is a little bit of description of some adult situations, but they never actually do the deed.  WTF??  It’s actually a good deal more tame than some YA books I’ve read except that there is a little more description of actual touching, if that makes sense.

The final grade
My grade for this book is an A.  I thought it was intelligent and interesting and I was so, so glad that I had that next book sitting there as soon as I finished the last page of this one.  If you like your supernatural to have a bit more intellect, you will like this one.

1 comment:

  1. I love your review of this, my favorite book. I think Matthew is the best written male character ever. I loved the history and the descriptions of the places.. It didn't hurt that they were mostly in Oxford...My favorite thing is that Diana doesn't become the typical weak girl after the guy falls for her.
    I am enjoying your blog.