This is a multifaceted tale, with some elements more intriguing than others. Depending on the vein of the story you are interested in, you may find it wonderful or you may find it lacking.
The female lead is a rational scholar, descended from the first Bishop woman to die in the Salem witch trials. She avoids magic, as it is almost unaccessible. She studies and teaches at Oxford and is a mature adult.
She finds herself in an interesting predicament. She studies an alchemical text, that which describes "chemical transformations in a rational and systematic way, before the periodic table." The imagery and history behind her work is rather fascinating. However, she loses access to this text and all eyes turn to her.
You've certainly read about the romance in the other reviews. I will grant you that, but there is a larger context to their connection that is not even fully revealed in the first book of the trilogy. There is also much European and American history, philosophy, and the melding of art and science. This I particularly enjoyed.
Another stream the book follows is witchcraft. For women or men of older traditions, I believe you will find this pleasing. More modern urban fantasy fans will be bored. I personally loved the sentient house.
The book is well-written, unlike some more modern urban fantasy or sci-fi books and the narration is quite good. The female narrator does a wonderful job with male voices. The pace can be a bit slow, but that is relative to other books to which you are listening.
The story unfolds, along its multiple dimensions, creatures and their habits and disputes, appropriate behavior to fit in with the surroundings, sought after knowledge, in a slow pace. If this is your thing you will like the book. I sort of liken it to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
The overall tale is a story to be told, or heard rather, if I have shed any light on the conflicting reviews. I personally enjoyed the book, being of older traditions, loving good mysteries, and always reveling in the mysterious.
I have listened to this audio book three times. I love vampires, wine and genetics, so this is book strikes a very strong chord in me. But the characters are what really make it a joy. Diana and Matthew are so well drawn and complimentary to each other. Listening to them fall in love never gets old, well not yet anyway.
Harkness build a very tangible and authentic world. Even though it is fantasy it meshes well into the real world, and I find myself lost in that world.
I would love to hear more from Jennifer Ikeda. This is my first that she narrated. But if I like a narrator I will try anything she/he reads!
I was listening to this at work one day during a boring data entry day, and became so engrossed that I jumped when a friend came to my desk for lunch. I had fallen in completely. I gasped out loud at parts and urged characters to not put themselves in harm's way.
I like fiction, sci-fi, fantasy and magic-realism.
The overview did mention something about "A Discovery of Witches" being equal parts "history and magic, romance and suspense", BUT it didn't specify how cringe-worthy and eye-rolling-ly cheesy the romance part would be. Ugh! I'm a fan of the fantasy genre, and I totally love reading about vampires, witches, magic spells, etc, etc, and it's fine if there's some romance thrown in, but the romance between these two main characters is so boring and slow moving and also predictable, that I can no longer force myself to finish this book.
The narrator, Jennifer Ikeda, does a decent job. She skillfully jumps between the different accents in a very believable way. Sadly, the dialogue is often annoying. Not her fault, though. The performance is definitely the best thing about this audible book.
The idea behind the book is actually quite clever, and I appreciate how Deborah Harkness has created new and interesting ideas about the powers and traits of her vampires, witches and demons. I also like how there's a bunch of historical tidbits thrown in.
Up to about 2/3 of the way through this book, I probably would have given 3 stars, but then the romance story line that had been quietly brewing in the background suddenly took over, and the cheese-fest began. Too bad, because it would have been a decent, if extremely long, audible book.
If you like vampires and romance then this is a book for you. It is well written and the character development is good. I like the over all story line, but I'm not into romance. I think that the book could have been shorter or had more action in it.
I don't like romance stories in the first place. I thought it would have moved faster.
I never read her stories before. I'd like to know what happens to the characters, but not if all of her other stuff is this slow and romantic.
Not unless my wife made me.
It's a great story line for people who like romances.
A story about a reluctant witch who is supposedly the most powerful on the planet. I keep waiting for something to happen or solve or develop further and it's just not happening. The fun thing is the main characters are scholars of ancient manuscripts and it is exciting to imagine that life. Give the reluctance of Diana to be the witch she was born to be, a rest.
She was fine.
I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.
This book makes me want to stab something.
If you liked Twilight--no, let me rephrase, if you liked the "romance" and the female frailty and insipidity of Bella in Twilight--then give this crap piece of writing a go. If, on the other hand, you like your female protagonists to have half a brain in their head and be fully thought-out characters and individuals, then avoid this excessively long, action less "story" filled with stock characters of no depth and unclear motivations.
I actually kinda liked Twilight the first time around (though it doesn't have enough depth to re-read), maybe because of the pace. A Discovery of Witches does not have any action, at least we haven't seen any 400--I mean 13--looong hours into the audiobook.
At 13 hours, I am about halfway through the book. Currently I detest the main character and simply dislike all the other characters. The vampire love interest is a jerk who treats the main character crappy and keeps secrets from her for not other reason than, I suppose to further the lack-of-plot and "suspense." Except we are told that Mr. Vampire is really nice. Diana is totally impressed with Mr. Vampire for, I guess, being slightly less jerky than everyone else. Diana appears to have no other life or to do anything interesting. Apparently she is a big-shot historian but this seems to be her stock backstory rather than actually interesting in the book.
Mr. Vamp is a scientist. Diana is a witch. She suddenly discovers that she's a super-powerful witch, but doesn't know anything about it and everyone around her, including her erstwhile guardians appears intent on keeping everything secret until after she needs to know about it, like how witches are forbidden to "be" with vampires. Thus forbidden, rebel Diana instantly decides she has fallen in love. Good plan.
For the last interminable space of time during my reading, the vampire has told Diana she has to do whatever he says, the author has tried to get us to believe that Vampires are scary and also amazingly attractive. I don't believe either of them, I'm giving up.
Does something interesting happen eventually? Near the end does the protagonist actually do something or hold a thought in her head that doesn't directly relate to swooning over studly Mr. Vampire? I don't know and I probably never will.
I don't like to give up on books partway through, but I don't think I can possibly finish this one.
Unfortunately, no. Like so many others, I went into this book not being aware that it is a romance novel first and foremost, and a fantasy book second. The "story" (and here I mean what's left after scraping off all of the stereotypical romance machinations and plot devices - complete with the requisite horseback ride by the damsel and her masculine hero) is actually really good and involves a complex mystery with many moving parts and deep rooted secrets. However, unless you are a fan of the heavy romance genre, this book is not for you.
Yes, I need to be more careful to pick up a romance book masquerading as fantasy literature.
None. Too stereotypical.
Probably, in the same vein as the Twilight movies
This is a difficult book for me to review, as it pulls me in a number of different directions. My initial reaction was to dislike it. The first half of the book comes across as a “B-grade” romance novel, with the tall, dark stranger and the feisty young woman who resists his charms until suddenly she finds him irresistible. There is even a castle and a tower bedroom scene with hundreds of lit candles with their golden glow…how cliché! The basic story has strong echoes of Dana Gabaldon’s "Outlander" series. There is almost no action in the story until over half way through the book, then again once or twice before the end of the book.
The surface story is that of a love relationship between an ancient vampire (looks 37 but is actually closer to 1500 years old) and a witch (36 and looks her age) who is in denial that she is a witch. A real world analysis of the main characters leave the reader/listener with questions--can a Narcissistic vampire with relation addiction issues and Obsessive Compulsive traits have a meaningful love relationship with a woman who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Attacks, as well as serious identity and abandonment issues? Can their relationship be anything other than a classic case of codependence? The relationship difficulties are exacerbated when the couple jumps into marriage about three weeks into the relationship…talk about impulsive! It’s a fictional romance…I know… but if this is some romantic ideal…and some people will take it for that…it is a dangerous and unhealthy ideal. I probably sound like the heroine’s aunt Sarah but she seemed like the only character with an ounce of common sense.
This is a long book, running about 24 hours in the audio edition. It could have been edited to about half that without serious harm to the story. Indeed, judicious editing would have significantly improved the book.
All of those frustrations and complaints noted, I have to admit that the book has a certain charm. The author does a decent job of creating the separate cultures of witches and vampires and the characters are consistent within the context of their respective cultures. Her description of the various periods of history which play into the story create a vivid sense of the periods. Her quotes from the literature of the various time periods are appropriate and not an intrusion. Further, as the story developed and more secrets were revealed the eccentricities of personality in both of the main characters, and a number of supporting characters, began to make sense. By the time the book ended, setting the reader up for book two of the trilogy, I was ready to move on to book two. I’ll probably be irritated with the second volume in the trilogy, as I was with the first, but no doubt I’ll want to continue on to book three and see how the trilogy ends.
Complements to the narrator. She does an excellent job keeping the voices for the characters distinct and believable. Her handling of the accents is admirable.
At first grounded in believable settings this story flies away into fantasy (at least I hope it is fantasy!) and the witch and the vampire float into the adventures as they try to find the lost book they hope hold the key telling why their populations are demishing. If you can listen to such a book and just enjoy the tale then it is a don't miss but I do not believe it is for everyone. It helps that Jennifer Ikeda does a great narration.
I really enjoyed this. I could barely put it down. Mathew and Diana are such an interesting pair. There were places in this book where I was taken completely by surprise and I loved it. I read a great deal so surprises are few and far between. If you're looking for horror or anything for that matter besides a well thought out PNR look elsewhere. This has a well thought out plot, good main characters and secondary characters. My only quibble and it's a small one is the set up in places is the library scenes do tend to go on a bit.
The narration is a treat. Wonderfully done. I'm so glad the second book is also done by Jennifer Ikeda.