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A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) Paperback – December 27, 2011


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A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) + Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, Bk 2) + The Book of Life: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy)
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Product Details

  • Series: All Souls Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (December 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143119680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143119685
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,612 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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)
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In Harkness's lively debut, witches, vampires, and demons outnumber humans at Oxford's Bodleian Library, where 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. Against all occult social propriety, Bishop turns for protection to tall, dark, bloodsucking man-about-town Clairmont. Their research raises questions of evolution and extinction among the living dead, and their romance awakens centuries-old enmities. Harkness imagines a crowded universe where normal and paranormal creatures observe a tenuous peace. "Magic is desire made real," Bishop says after both her desire and magical prowess exceed her expectations. Harkness brings this world to vibrant life and makes the most of the growing popularity of gothic adventure with an ending that keeps the Old Lodge door wide open. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Deborah Harkness is a professor of history at the University of Southern California. She has received Fullbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships, and her most recent scholarly work is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. She also writes an award-winning wine blog.

Customer Reviews

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Great story, well written, characters are well developed.
Kristian Feterik
I felt, though, too much got in the way of the story, slowing down the pace.
Wildfire
As with the first time reading the books I couldn't put them down.
KatieD

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

496 of 557 people found the following review helpful By Vanessa on February 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES Harknes takes all the urban fantasy romantic tropes and...uses them. Main PoV character Diana is smart, orphaned, stubborn, beautiful-though-she-doesn't-know-it, and a powerful witch. Her vampire love interest Matthew is almost perfectly thoughtful, impeccably dressed, brilliant, rich, and well connected. The antagonists resent their blossoming romance because vampires and witches 'just don't mix' (Really! It's never happened before!). There's the trendy locales (Oxford, France, upstate New York), the wine/books/artifacts only a centuries old vampire could have, the tension between the supernatural races. If you've read your share of urban fantasy, you've seen all this many times over.

The issue isn't that Harkness uses these tropes over again--they are tried and true for a reason--it's that it's her first novel and you can tell. Her foreshadowing lacks subtlety. Last-minute contrivances fix issues. Too much time is spent on the minutiae of eating/traveling/clothing. Expository conversations are used to forward the plot. And the plot itself is bogged down with irrelevant information. You know, the kinds of things any writer's workshop would explain are problems because they affect flow and readability.

But do these problems ruin the story?

For most urban fantasy readers, those are issues that won't impede their enjoyment of the love story. However, while I enjoyed Harkness' blending of ideas and the magic, even if they aren't exactly groundbreaking, the execution made it hard for me to enjoy it on a level that would make me give an unhesitating endorsement.

The story starts off with a problem: why does everyone want Ashmole 782? Diana is a Ph.D.
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825 of 940 people found the following review helpful By Viviane Crystal TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is not your ordinary story about witches, vampires and daemons!

Diana Bishop's famous ancestor was executed for being a witch. As a heart-rending consequence of Diana's parents' mysterious deaths, Diana has vowed she will live totally as a human, denying her identity as a witch with both usual and unusual powers. Dedicating her life to logic and ordinary living, she is now a history scholar doing research on alchemy texts in the Bodleian library at Oxford. Upon receiving a requested text called Ashmole 782, she realizes either the book is spellbound or there is something about this book that connects with her hidden witch powers. Add to that the reactions of suddenly appearing witches, vampires, and daemons whose animosity and threatening looks and words make Diana's wish for normalcy an illusion she can no longer ignore.

Into the midst of this reality arrives a handsome, extremely intelligent and old vampire, Matthew Clairmont, who is supposedly pursuing his own research as a geneticist. Initially disliking and avoiding his presence, Diana finally begins to realize he is protecting her from direct attack by the hordes of persons appearing daily in the library who are insisting she recall the text they are desperate to obtain. Then he begins to appear during her running and rowing exercises which seem to be the only way she can stop her natural abilities from emerging with perilous effects on herself as well as others.

Why is Matthew so attracted to Diana and what is behind the interest so many have in this mysterious text lost for centuries which has appeared and again disappeared after Diana's innocent unbinding of its pages?
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452 of 535 people found the following review helpful By Richard D. Stewart on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I downloaded the first chapter as a sample and - after reading just a few pages - bought the book and moved it to the top of my reading list.

What a disappointment. Harkness has certain charm that occasionally shines through in her writing, but the story is a mess. Villains appear and lurk in the shadows. The heroine goes rowing. Twice. She goes to yoga a couple times, too. The villains multiply. The heroine goes horseback riding. Three times. Then she learns to make an herbal tea.

Oh, and she falls in love. With a vampire, of course. Annoying "mon amore!" crying love. Eyerolling, "Will you ever stop surprising me, mon coeur?" kind of love.

Then the heroine discovers her powers. Naturally, she is the most gifted witch in generations. Here is a partial list of her powers (so far): flight, precognition, talking to ghosts, control of water, telekenesis, control of witchfire (you can't put it out, or heal its burns), and teleportation. Did I mention time travel? Time travel. So she's pretty tough, right? ...No. She does kill one vampire after it wounds her lover, but mainly she wanders around in a kind of daze, remarkably unconcerned by the strange and violent turn her life has taken.

Anyway, I stuck with it to the end, only to find that I could have put it down at ABSOLUTELY ANY POINT and had as much closure as the "ending" provided.

Other reviewers have compared this to Anne Rice. Anne isn't my favorite writer either, but she should be offended by the comparison.

One last note: I'm kind of appalled by the number of reviewers that think this book is smart, or "brainy." It's partially set in a university and it has some scientific words. Like... mitochondria. Whoa! Heady stuff! Not.
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