Saturday, January 21, 2012

Adult Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Genre: Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Publication Date: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN-13 Book: 9780143119685
Source: I purchased a paperback copy of this novel from Meijer. This is my honest review!


A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When scholar Diana Bishop calls up the manuscript Ashmole 782 from the Bodlein library in Oxford, she has no idea how that single act will change her life.  Born a witch, but refusing to have anything to do with her magic, Diana has suddenly caught the interest of witches, daemons, and a very alluring vampire.  Soon she is being pursued and threatened by witches who believe she knows more than she is letting on, by daemons who want her to give them the manuscript, and by a vampire who may want more from her than just the manuscript.
To be completely honest I have to admit that my friend, who wasn’t able to finish the book, was right—there is a bit too much mooning over how handsome Matthew is and how perfect he is.  Like in the novel Twilight we are told over and over how perfect, strong, white, and handsome the vampire Matthew Clairmont is to the protagonist.  I can see how that grated on her, and why she couldn’t go any further with this novel, but I really wish she had finished it. 

I will admit that on the surface this novel has the ability to come off as a bit of a Twilight for grownups, but the mooning over the perfectly handsome vampire who insists to our charming protagonist that he is a dangerous creature who could lose control and kill her is really where the similarities end.  Unlike the protagonist of the other mentioned vampire novel, Diana Bishop is a strong and capable woman.  She is a scholar who wants nothing more than to work on her keynote address for an upcoming conference when she unwittingly calls up a book on alchemy that soon has the world of paranormal creatures buzzing.

While a little slow in the beginning, this novel definitely picks up the pace at the end.  Strangely the slowness of the beginning didn’t turn me off the novel.  For some reason it felt right for this book, it made me savor each chapter and appreciate the time I got to spend with the book.  I honestly didn’t want to turn that last page knowing I would have to wait until July to find out what was going to happen next.  Even now, having just finished it last evening, I find myself wanting to go back and reread the novel and spend more time with these characters.

Speaking of characters, you can’t help but like spunky and defiant Diana.  It was a bit frustrating seeing her do something dangerous because of her defiance, but on the other hand I liked that the heroine of this novel could stand up for herself.  Yes, she does get a bit moony over Matthew, but tell me, do you know any girl or woman who hasn’t gotten moony over someone at least once.  Sickening as it may be to some, sometimes we don’t always think with our brains; sometimes we see candy and we like it.  The fawning over Matthew does lessen later in the novel, when the events and action begin to take over and despite the fact that this bothered my friend, I was able to get past this without much effort.

Matthew was a puzzle whose pieces were slowly doled out over the course of the novel.  Each little tidbit was fascinating, and it really answers the question what would you do if you could live forever.  He has known history firsthand, and to a historian like Diana that knowledge itself is what draws her to him—not merely his looks.  His instincts and his long life have made him a protector of the weak—strange for a vampire, but he has been living among humans for many years.  When he first meets Diana he sees a witch who has never learned to use her power, and who can’t protect herself from other witches.  It makes him feel like he needs to shield her, and try to protect her from this world she has shut out of her life. 

The other characters are equally fascinating Ysabeau especially intrigued me.  Diana’s aunts are a fun lot, and so are many of the creatures we meet in this novel.  I still want to know more about Marcus, Miriam, and Nathaniel, so I hope we get to see them again in the next novel.

This novel would probably be called more of a romance than general fiction, but the adventure, the history, and mystery will keep non-romance readers interested.  It is definitely a page turner and I can see why it has garnered such good reviews and a place on the bestseller lists.

You are probably wondering why I gave a book where I have acknowledged flaws a 5 star review.  To be absolutely and completely honest, it is because I loved the book.  It hooked me on the first page, and though I could see the flaws my friend pointed out they didn’t matter to me.  This book was an engrossing read.  It was a book where I wanted to savor every page.  I liked the characters, the romance, the action, the magic, and the history.  It blended all those aspects well, and no matter where I was in the book I wanted to keep reading.  Maybe it was because this book gave me something that has been missing from my reading choices lately, and I admit I whole heartedly want more.  I only hope the second book is as good as the first.

Overall, this is one of my favorite books.  How can I tell?  I can tell because I just finished the book yesterday and already I want to go back and reread it.  That hasn’t happened to me for a very, very, long time.  If you like adventure, with romance, and some history give A Discovery of Witches a try.  The sequel Shadow of Night comes out July 10, 2012—I’m not sure I can wait that long.          




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