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A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) Hardcover – February 8, 2011
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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)
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.)
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Top customer reviews
The male protagonist is clearly meant to be a romantic male figure that ignites every woman's imagination; an iconic and ideal Renaissance man. So, what's the hang up with a romantic male figure who takes charge of everything, is possesive and controlling, and turns a completely self sufficient woman into a woman-child that blindly trusts and follows him? I see this pattern in most novels that include a romantic male figure, and I continue to wonder at the apparently latent desire for modern women to find a man who has the attributes of a daddy bear. A self assured woman would hopefully want a man who sees her as an equal, and treats her with the same respect and expectations that he'd treat another man; not someone she can melt into in a crisis, but rather someone who is as strong a partner as she is. How can we ever hope to achieve equality he book is a fun adventure with a worn plot that still managed a few surprises. The male protagonist is clearly meant to be a romantic male figure that ignites every woman's imagination; an iconic and ideal Renaissance man. So, what's the hang up with a romantic male figure who takes care of everything, is possesive and controlling, and turns a completely self sufficient woman into a woman-child that blindly trusts and follows him? I see this pattern in most novels that include a romantic male figure, and I continue to wonder at the apparently latent desire for modern women to find a man who has the attributes of a daddy bear. A self assured woman would hopefully want a man who sees her as an equal, and treats her with the same respect and expectations that he'd treat another man, not someone she can melt into in a crisis, but rather someone who is as strong a partner as she is. In this still male-dominated world, if we continue to seek, and therfore reinforce, men who don't really view us as their equal in every part of the relationship, then how can we hope to shape a society with gender equality?
I don’t do vampires. I’ve never read Bram Stoker or Anne Rice and certainly not that Meyer person. I’m not sure how I ended up with this audio book. I do desperate things when I don’t have a book to help pass the time in cross-town traffic. Also, I have a life time membership in the Dorothy Sayers fan club. This story starts in Oxford, in the Bodleian, with an ancient book. I thought it was worth a try.
I don’t think the author intended such humor, but it had me laughing out loud. Intended or not, witches, vampires and daemons stalking among the stacks and the study carrels is Monty Python funny. And of course if they are in the library together, what could be more natural than all creatures together for a yoga class? I had difficulty suspending my belief long enough to pay attention to the story.
Eventually, the characters, their relationships, and the sense of danger and the suspense did draw me into this fantasy world. The Oxford setting drew me into the book, but I enjoyed the shifting locations; England to France to the good ol’ USA. I enjoyed the personality of the Bishop House which (a la Sarah Addison Allen) hides family secrets and adds rooms for visiting vampires as needed. I admit it, I’m interested.
Who would have thought a book like this could tackle the serious subject of race discrimination? Or is it species discrimination? I’d like to know more about vampire genetics, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand how anyone could be sexually attracted to an ice-cold immortal who dines on human blood. I want to know why Diana Bishop’s parents were willing to sacrifice themselves. And, drat, I do want to know what is inside that moldy, old, alchemical book.
The entire scene between Diana and Satu. I completely understand that Diana was in a delusional, shock-like state due to the arduous torture she was experiencing, but I feel like the entire scene was rushed. There was a fair amount of suspense and build up leading to what actually ends up taking place between her and Satu, but I felt like the connection that should have been made between Diana's coping mechanism and reality was missing. Almost like a lack of natural transition/pace.
Another scene that had a decent amount of suspense in build up, but lacked important details in depiction of the event was the scene with Juliette, Matthew, and Diana. It was too all-over the place. I hate to compare this novel to Harry Potter or even Twilight, but in those series I always felt satisfied after the significant events that involved suspenseful interactions with threatening characters/situations unfolded. I don't like feeling like I need to go back to re-read to see if I'm missing something, or feeling like I might have skipped a page.
Another small dissatisfaction that I have with this book is the almost redundant focus on small details of Diana and Matthew's relationship. I am all for a good novel romance, but sometimes I felt like it was gratuitous. Like, "Wrap it up already and get on with the action. Let's make more progress with finding Ashmole." I don't care about their stupid pet names, or glances, or what it feels like every time the characters touched. Maybe that's just me, but I was expecting the book to be more of a "Angels and Demons" mystery/suspense/fantasy type than what it was--a romance novel with occasional action scenes and historical references thrown in.
Other than those gripes, I found the concept behind the plot interesting and entertaining. It definitely kept me intrigued enough to finish it through. Would I read it again? Probably not. Am I continuing to the second book? Yes.
So do with that what you may.