- Series: All Souls Trilogy (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (February 8, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670022411
- ISBN-13: 978-0670022410
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.8 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5,710 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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(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 reason I knocked off a star is because I wish I had more of the actual plot instead of just constantly focusing on the romance. The other concepts are so interesting I wish the author would explore those more. I understand their romance is at the center of it all, but jeez we get it they love each other can we discuss any of the other million things going on for just a moment? Maybe that's just personal preference, though.
Also, it feels like Diana is constantly a damsel in distress and it is frustrating that even when she finally starts using her powers, she still needs a man to save her. And when her aunts are trying to help, the only person who actually helps her at all is a vampire and a man that she only just met, and it seems like a slap in the face to her aunts. I realize Diana has overwhelming power that is difficult for her aunts to teach, but Matthew isn't even a witch and he can help her.
I was torn between 3 and 4 stars because I really did enjoy the book. The alchemy and the feuding of all the creatures is interesting, I want to know what happens, but Diana is so subservient and always needs a man to rescue her it is just annoying, and Matthew is just an ass.
I really want to know what happens because the story and the writing are both great, but their relationship just dominates everything and it gets monotonous and they both annoy me, so for that reason I do not think I will read the next book. HOWEVER, if your preference is extra sappy love stories with plot on the side, this is for you. I don't say that as an insult because that is the type of book a lot of people like and maybe that's what this is supposed to be, but I was just looking for something else.