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A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy) Paperback – December 27, 2011
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“A wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter or Twilight. . . . An irresistible tale of wizardry, science and forbidden love.”
“Romantic, erudite, and suspenseful . . . Harkness attends to every scholarly and emotional detail with whimsy, sensuality, and humor.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“A thoroughly grown-up novel packed with gorgeous historical detail and a gutsy, brainy heroine to match. . . . Harkness writes with thrilling gusto about the magical world.”
“Harkness conjures up a scintillating paranormal story. . . . Discover why everyone’s talking about this magical book.”
“Delightfully well-crafted and enchantingly imaginative . . . It has some of the same ineluctable atmosphere that made Anne Rice’s vampire books such a popular success.”
“A debut novel with a big supernatural canvas . . . Its ambitions are world-sized, ranging across history and zeroing in on DNA, human and otherwordly. Age-old tensions between science and magic and between evolution and alchemy erupt as Diana seeks to unlock the secrets of Ashmole 782.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Harkness, an eloquent writer, conjures this world of witches with Ivy League degrees and supernatural creatures completely—and believably—while maintaining a sense of wonder. . . . A Discovery of Witches is that rare historical novel that manages to be as intelligent as it is romantic. And it is supernatural fiction that those of us who usually prefer to stay grounded in reality can get caught up in. Pardon the pun, but Witches is truly spellbinding.”
—San Antonio News-Express
“Readers who thrilled to Elizabeth Kostova’s 2005 blockbuster, The Historian, will note the parallels, but A Discovery of Witches is a modern Romeo and Juliet story, with older, wiser lovers. Blood will flow when a witch and a vampire fall for each other. Author Deborah Harkness, a UCLA history professor, brings vast knowledge and research to the page.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Harkness works her own form of literary alchemy by deftly blending fantasy, romance, history, and horror into one completely bewitching book.”
“A Discovery of Witches becomes increasingly charming as it goes along. . . . A shrewdly written romp and a satisfying snow-day read for those of us who heartily enjoyed the likes of Anne Rice and Marion Zimmer Bradley. By the book’s rousing end . . . I was impatient for the sequel.”
About the Author
Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. She lives in Los Angeles.
Visit www.deborahharkness.com and follow “Deborah Harkness” on Facebook and @DebHarkness on Twitter.
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(Though reviews are inherently subjective, I prefer to provide some organization to my opinions through the use of a personal rubric. The following notes may contain spoilers.)
Plot and Setting: 4.6 -- Plot is engaging from start to finish. Has many unique elements, no major holes, and a sense of focus. Major plot points are dropped or not resolved (cliffhanger). Setting is clear and believable. Timeline is clear and consistent. This is an incredibly detailed world, with interesting creatures, complex politics, and complicated family dynamics, all mixed in with elements of the mundane, ordinary world. There's terror and romance, adventure and personal revelations. It's complicated, and it doesn't resolve, leading directly into the next book, but it is wonderful. And it is clearly a well-planned story, since it is possible to track the days as they pass, from September 18 to October 31.
Characters: 5 -- Relatable, realistic, interesting, dynamic characters. Even minor characters have depth, as do the relationships between characters. We meet many, many characters, with their own stories, personalities, creature attributes, and motivations (both benevolent and evil). They are all incredibly well imagined and outlined. Diana's struggle to accept her magic ability, and all that comes with it, makes her very relatable, and I enjoyed her relationships with Matthew, Sarah and Emily, Ysabeau and Marthe, and all her other friends and acquaintances.
Mechanics and Writing: 5 -- Few, if any, typos, punctuation issues, or word errors. (<3/100pgs) Intelligent use of POV. Skillful writing that adds to the story. Errors include: compound word and/or homophone confusion, mild punctuation or formatting issues. POV is mainly 1st-person Diana, with some scenes (all or almost all when Diana is not present to narrate) in a sort of universal 3rd-person narrative, dipping into the thoughts of whoever is needed to tell the important details.
Redeeming Value: 3.6 -- Partially focused uplifting themes or lessons. Drugs, alcohol, violence, etc, are not glorified, though there is some shaky ground. A few borderline explicit sex scenes. Implied moral guidelines for behavior. No actual sex, though there's lots of kissing and intimate acts of 'bundling' between Diana and Matthew, and other sexual relationships are mentioned. A good deal of violence, which grows bloody and/or deadly more than once. Wine is a big deal, but it's enjoyed responsibly. Vampire politics and morality are apparently different from the human versions, falling more into the medieval, or even bestial. Some witches head that way, too. Lots of power plays, long grudges, etc.
Personal Enjoyment: 5 -- I loved it. It made me feel in all the best ways, and leaves me content and satisfied. One I'll definitely read again.
The only reason I didn't give a single star is because there are genuinely cool things like the Bishop house buried in the middle of the mire.
Have you ever liked something almost against your will? Something that encompasses roughly half of the things you hate in reference to said thing? Something that makes you scratch your head in wonder, b/c you can't figure out why on earth you aren't terribly bothered by those detested things in this situation?
Welcome to my life.
This book has:
1. What can be construed as insta-love. Matthew and Diana are drawn to each other from the moment they meet, BUT it's so subtle that you aren't sure that's what is happening. And that's probably why it gets a pass.
I never really thought about it (before this book forced me too), but it's the things that insta-love seems to be comprised of, rather than the insta-love itself, that I take issue with---fluttery eyelashes, wild proclamations of ardent, enduring (but wholly untried) love, and the accompanying false sense of urgency. P-U-K-E. Get a room, already. And preferably AFTER the inevitable danger has passed.
But none of those things are an issue here. By the time it becomes obvious that, yes, these two feel more for each other than trepidation and annoyance, enough time has elapsed to almost warrant the depth of emotions, and the rest can be chalked up to fate, animal instinct, mating imperative, etc.
2. A super, special snowflake who denies her super, special snowflakeness. Not only is Diana the last in a powerful line of matriarchal witches, her father was a powerful warlock in his own right. So powerful that a union between her mother and father was strongly discouraged by the powers that be. Mom and Dad said, "Screw you, hippies!" and Diana was the result. But when her parents were killed when Diana was seven, she assumed their deaths were the result of their abilities and refuses to have anything to do with magic.
B/c that always works out so well. *sighs*
But again, it gets a pass. Diana is being just as ridiculous as every MC who tries to ignore their gifts, but this time you can't help but be sympathetic. She's not being obstinate simply to be a pain in the arse. She understandably believes that nothing good can come from using magic, so she's not going to do it. So there. And that's not the only reason it gets a pass, but I can't tell you the other one. Suffice it to say, there's a darn good reason Diana isn't using magic, and that reason is not even remotely her fault.
3. Super, secret information withholding. And this is perhaps the one I have the hardest time with. I cannot stand it when someone in a position of authority, older, more experienced, etc. unilaterally decides who gets to know what. HATE it.<------I'm audibly grinding my teeth right now.
But Matthew . . . it's kind of the same thing that happens when I read historical romance. Am I overly fond of a woman's only option being to marry and marry well, have children, keep house? NO. I'm NOT. But that's the way things were, and getting mad about it isn't going to change anything, and besides, Dukes are HAWT.
So is Matthew. AND he's a 1500 year old vampire, so he kind falls under that same umbrella, and really, he means well. I got frustrated with him a few times, but it was obvious that he was trying, and I imagine it'd be pretty darn hard to attempt major behavior modifications to habits 1500 years in the making. So yeah. Yet, another pass.
The good news is that having talked it out, I'm no longer banging my head against a wall. I now know why I like this book despite the major book peeves around every corner. And besides those peeves getting passes, A Discovery of Witches is just entertaining. It might have taken me awhile to like Diana, but I instantly respected her, and I was as gone for Matthew as she was the moment he showed up. In the LIBRARY. Of OXFORD. Lots of bookish fun in this book.
Also---while I have no complaints about the pacing in the front 75% of the book, the last 25% is just consuming. The second that Matthew and Diana show up at her childhood home, I could not put the book down. The house is sentient and highly opinionated. It's also full of the ghosts of Bishops past, also opinionated. A couple of new secondaries show up, one of which is absolutely darling. GAH. This book is awesome, just read it. Highly recommended.
It just didn't touch me and with that being said, I'm not going to peruse the following books