Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Publication Date: February 2011
Publisher: (Penguin/Viking)
Genre: Paranormal Adult
ISBN-13: 9780670022410

(Received for review from Penguin/Viking)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Books-A-Million, IndieBound

If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:
Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library

Deborah Harkness on the WEB: Website, Wine Blog, Facebook, Twitter

Excerpt from A Discovery of Witches
Book Trailer:

Synopsis (Barnes & Noble):

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries - and she is the only creature that can break it's spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is a contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series - with an extra serving of historical realism.


Debut author Deborah Harkness uses her experience as a professor of history to add to the authenticity of her book, A Discovery of Witches. Readers will love this cross between a historical and a paranormal read. Harkness shows that the YA community is not the only genre with a corner on the paranormal market. With a very mature view of witches, vampires, daemons, and human's the author gives the reader a sensual and dramatic read, full of romance, suspense and unforgettable characters.

Scholar and historian, Diana Bishop comes across a manuscript while doing research at Oxford that has already changed her life, she just doesn't know it yet. When Diana inadvertently sets the supernatural community on it's ear, by opening a very old and very powerful manuscript, she has no idea what shes done. Having sworn off magic as a witch, after the death of her parents, Diana is clueless to the significance of what appears to be an alchemical manuscript which in truth holds the keys to the existence of each race of beings. Matthew Clairmont a noted geneticist has an interest in the centuries-old book as well as many others. A vampire with a penchant for wine, Matthew is unprepared when he meets Diana. They quickly begin to form a bond that goes beyond anything they've ever experienced, but their relationship can never be... It breaks an unspoken law that the witches and vampires do not mix. Will their relationship survive, what is coming? Will they be able to stop the war that is brewing?

I don't even know where to begin with this one. There are so many good things to say about it. Deborah Harkness has given the readers of adult fiction, a book that will definitely challenge the YA community as being the forerunners in paranormal fiction. This book is very mature and very fulfilling. It is set in modern times with contemporary characters and situations, though there is a definite sense of history. Harkness as a professor of history uses her knowledge to give the book a historical feel without actually being set in the past.

A Discovery of Witches introduces the reader to several different types of characters. The hero is a vampire and the heroine a witch, not exactly a match made in heaven. Diana is strong willed and very determined to create her own destiny. Though she comes form a family of distinguished witches she wants nothing to do with their lifestyle or their gifts. She wants to experience life on her own terms, but she quickly learns that you can't outrun your heritage. You can't pretend to be something you're not or forget who you really are. Her powers have lain dormant until now and they start to surface with a vengeance. The abilities that Harkness created for Diana were fantastic. I loved everything about this character. She was sensual, she was aggressive, and she was still able to show a lot of vulnerability.

Matthew Clairmont's character was really impressive. The reader will feel the strength and the power emanating from him. He exudes a sense of the old world, having lived for centuries, yet he is powerless against the power of true love. Once he lets go and lets himself have feelings for Diana he begins to show a fierce protectiveness and his inability to protect Diana is almost more than he can bear. He is portrayed as debonair and handsome, but there is wildness about him as well. He seems cultured and refined, but when his temper erupts his vampire heritage comes out. He is a very complicated character and I just love that, it makes him mysterious fun to read about.

The supporting cast of witches, vampires and daemons add to the book in a very profound way. They help the reader see the signifigance of what's going on. How others will be affected if Matthew and Diana go against tradition. Diana's aunts were wonderful as well as Matthew's mother and son. The relationships each experiences throughout the novel are powerful and life changing. I really thought the author did a wonderful job with these characters and they were so well developed that I felt like I knew their motivations almost as well as the main characters by the end of the book.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a book with a historical view point, but still set in the present. It will offers adult readers of YA a different perspective on the paranormal genre and I believe it will grip them and hold their interest. This is such a great book. I can't say enough about it. At over 600 pages it may seem daunting, but those pages fly by as the reader is engaged from page one. It was very difficult to put down and I found myself thinking about it when I was unable to read.

A Discovery of Witches is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one a resounding 5 out of 5 and recommend it to all my readers.

Deborah Harkness is a professor of history at the Univercity of Southern California. She has received the 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.