A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Published September 29th 2011 by Headline
“It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.”
A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.
When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…
Having brought this last year at the great advice of one of the booksellers at my local Waterstones I had planned to join in with a readathon before the fourth book in the series was released, I did start this but with life and other things getting in the way I fell behind and decided I would come back to it at a later date and that later date happened to be in October. I watched the first episode of the TV show that aired this Autumn assuming I had read enough to get me through the episode without any huge spoilers and I was mostly right but by this point I was utterly hooked and started reading again. I had to stop just over half way through to read some books that I had to review by particular dates but with the last one done for the year I dived straight back into this book and finished it off in no time.
The best way I feel I can describe A Discovery of Witches is Twilight for adults, now I know Twilight gets a lot of stick and it’s not the most amazingly well written book in the whole wide world but, for me at least and some others it was enjoyable. A Discovery of Witches is more adult, not just in its characters but in setting and content which keeps it much more entertaining and more accessible for older readers but not inaccessible for the younger.
As characters go I found each memorable and particularly like Diana who is stubborn and strong but also has fragile moments as well, she doesn’t just take Matthews alpha male act at its word either which is refreshing for female main characters in books featuring paranormal romances. There are too many to list to be able to name my favourite things about all the characters but I do feel that despite the varied ensemble we get a nice amount of them, their back story, quirks and views etc making them easy to enjoy and remember, there are very few books, especially of this length where I can remember not only the names of characters but also details about them as well.
On reflection it feels amazing how much was crammed into this book and done well, it is certainly a sizeable book but one that I found very easy to work my way through with speed due to the not overly simplified but comfortable writing style that I found easy to devour. I wouldn’t say it is a book filled with great tension, other than the odd sensual (but not steamy) scene but there is definitely enough action and magic spread throughout to keep it interesting. I especially liked the first and last halves, the first half focusing very much on Diana and how her life begins to change as events unfold and the third being the part of the book where everything really culminates. The middle is still a good read and interesting, I could honestly read an entire series on its own about sept-tor but those parts I particularly enjoyed immensely.
I wouldn’t say this isn’t an epic read but absolutely an enjoyable one, especially if you enjoy paranormal romance, this isn’t quite the overly steamy, sex scene every chapter, heroines clad in leather that some PR caters to but is a little more stereotypically refined and feels like a nice mix between PR and general paranormal fantasy which I hadn’t known I had needed. What I mean by saying this isn’t an epic read is that this is very much a starting book, it’s certainly good and everything begins to get set into place, we get some answers and a fairly satisfying ending but it is very much a starting point and a great, addictive one at that. I’ve already started the second book and I’m pretty sure this is a series I will happily see through to the end.
Just an additional note I also listened to a good half of this book as an Audio-book read by Jenifer Ikeda who I feel embodies Diana well and is especially fantastic at all of the different accents and voices, if you’re looking for a good Audio-book, A Discovery of Witches is definitely a great example and I’ll be listening to the others alongside reading depending when opportunity dictates.