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 soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries - and she is the only creature who can break its 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 as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series - with an extra serving of historical realism.
©2011 Deborah Harkness (P)2011 Penguin
For one novel to engender so many five and two star reviews something odd is going on. I have to add my two stars to the pile I’m afraid. That may be the lowest star count I have ever awarded. I love fantasy fiction and have read everything from Pratchett and Rowling to Lovecraft and King. I have always avoided like the proverbial plague, the romantic fiction part of the genre.
I think the enraged two star reviews are mostly from folk (like me) who may have been expecting something else and tripped over this book by mistake…perhaps having read a series of good reviews from romance fiction fans who maybe didn’t want to admit that they were what they are and tried to push the book as a good fantasy read. It’s not...not even close. It’s good romance fiction. Having spent the money on the book maybe the two star crew thought we’d stick it out and stayed longer at the syrupy feast than we ever would have had we picked the book up whilst browsing at Barns and Noble.
If you love romantic fiction where bodices rip as breasts heave you will five star gush with praise and love, love LOVE this book. I’m not saying the book is horrible, it’s not. It’s a very good example of romantic fiction with a witch-vamp twist. Having said that, if heroic vampires and wilting damsels who actually pass out with a fit of the vapors (yes really!) make you run for the smallest room then this is not for you and you will hate, hate HATE this book…as did I.
I almost never give up on a book…but after nine hours of deathless, breathless and often pointless machinations I have to throw in the towel…or at least flatten out the unsullied but tastefully rumpled duvet and straighten the billowing nets curtains. You have been warned
retired litigation lawyer; I read history; historical fiction; literary fiction. Narrator ++ important. Story equally so
I was surprised to read the variety of reviews, from praise to condemnation. I recommend this audiobook without hesitation, both the book and the narration. I believe you have to start from the perspective of the genre you are reading - it is, after all, make believe. There are no such thing as vampires and witches ( well, not real witches). So..the author has the task of making you willingly suspend belief, and at the same time care about the characters. Harkness accomplishes both, and more. The book is best described as " Twilight for Adults", and thinking adults at that.
I look forward to Book # 2
This book has some things going for it: intriguing mystery, interestingly sketched characters, references to medieval and renaissance literature, etc... however, it is bogged down by a sappy and absurd romance between the two central characters. This treatment serves to flatten them out into 'cardboard cutouts' and make them very silly. I found myself rolling my eyes at yet another 'but I love him' or goofy description of what the main character was wearing. The character treatments are riddled with cliches: wealthy, suave French vampire (a la Anne Rice), scrappy on the outside mushy on the inside central character Dianna Bishop who needs a good man to help her to find her secret powers. I found myself thinking of her like I remember Nancy Drew from my grade school years -- she can ride a horse, write a dissertation, run a six minute mile, seduce a vampire with her magic who-who, and god knows what else? world peace? Give me a break! There are so many repeated lines about the vampire man's protective shielding of his woman, Dianna's uber, super magic, their undying love, their pet names for each other -- gag. This book should have been edited to half it's length and all the cliche sappy goo removed. Ms. Harkness does not trust her reader to get to know the characters through what they do, she hits us over the head with bombastic 'twoo-wov'. I just finished Suzanna Clarkes masterwork 'Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norris' which makes this novel look like a grocery store paperback... sigh. Maybe she will correct this stuff on her 2nd novel?
I briefly saw the recommendation for "A Discovery of Witches" and decided it was worth the one credit it cost. Little did I imagine what treasure was in store for me. Most books I read or listen to are just a good story, something that briefly occupies your mind and time in a pleasurable way. Rarely are there books that sweep you up in the arc of the story and puts the characters in your heart and mind in such a way that when you can tear yourself away from the story you find yourself thinking about the characters while you cook dinner or go about your daily life. This is that kind of book. I am thankful to Ms. Harkness for imagining such a wonderful richly written story. It's a grown-up book. If you are looking for gratuitous sex it's not there. It reminds of the way they used to make movies where you used your imagination to fill in the blanks instead of having it spelled out in front of you with graphic detail. Most books I read I can compare to junk food, a small bite of pleasure and then gone. This wondrous book is like a 10 course meal spread in front of you. I only wish it had not ended. I hate it that I cannot find any information as to when the next in the planned trilogy will be out. But I will be waiting......it's worth it. Thank you again Ms. Harkness
This book was interesting at first. The novel's plot is decent; I just wish the characters could live up to it. After the heroine meets the hero, it's all downhill from there. The dialogue is trite, "his mouth said no but his eyes said yes." Seriously?! Much of the dialogue reminds me of what must be written in those terrible grocery store romance novels. Overall, I was disappointed.
But I just couldn't. The writer is technically very good, she can definitely put a sentence together properly. Unfortunately, her attention to detail, something that delighted me at first, quickly became wearying. If a character looks at a book, you'll know what kind of binding it has and the color of the cover. If someone looks at their watch, you'll get a sentence or two describing what kind it is. I like details here and there; they can make a setting and characters more real, more solid, but this book is drowning in details. Any action scenes are slowed by tangential descriptions, and everything is over-analyzed and explained to death.
The dialogue is also stilted, which works for the uptight main character, but not for all of them. It's a very dry read, and there's no humor to be found anywhere. It's just not for me.
Witches, vampires, demons, did we forget anything? Oh yes, a few ghosts and let's not forget the humans. Shouldn't there be some werewolves but oddly enough, there aren't any. There is an interesting plot, a mysterious alchemical manuscript, an old unsolved murder and finally the "hero" and "heroine". However, this is the first time that I've listened to a book and found the plot to be more interesting than the main characters. And the plot is what kept me going through the entire 24 hours and 2 minutes.
We first meet Diana Bishop, scholar, historian, emotionally stunted witch in the Bodleian Library and are quickly introduced to Matthew Clairmont, tall, dark, handsome stranger, no wait...vampire. Without much ado, Diana and Matthew become attracted to each other though why isn't at all clear. Neither character displays much by way of personality other than a propensity on Diana's part to be insipid, insecure and irrational. Matthew on the other hand, is autocratic, demanding and superior. And hearing him call Diana "mon coeur" over and over becomes positively nauseating. Both characters seem to have no conversation other than to make silly demands of each other, or issuing ultimatums. Buy the end of the book I was heartily sick of Diana and Matthew. They had become caricatures, one dimensional, boring and unsympathetic. And I really don't much care what happens to them.
Reader Jennifer Ikeda does an adequate job, though some of her voices for the different characters start to grate after awhile. It is perhaps more an indication of the character development (or lack thereof) that affects the reading.
There is promise to author Deborah Harkness' writing, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to finish A Discovery of Witches. Hopefully she'll continue to grow as an author and write a really terrific next book.
I agree with some of the earlier reviews:
Twilight for adults. Sappy. Romantic fiction.
But what teed me off is that this is 24 hours of set up for a series.
Asa King and Rice fan I was disappointed. As a Christie fan I was livid.
In all that time the mystery doesn't get solved. Poirot we need you.
I resented being sucked into a series without warning.
Series are great as long as each book will stand on its own. This one does not.
This book felt like a failed attempt at creating a grown-up Twilight. Whether you like them or not, the similarities between S.M.'s books and this one are obvious. In addition, I didn't realize this was a romance when I bought the book- IT IS! The romance takes up at least 3/4 of the book and moves at a confusing, awkward pace. I only kept listening to it so that I could write a review based on the entire book- otherwise I would have stopped listening around 2/3 of the way through.
On the bright side- the narrator does a fantastic job. The stars are for her.
I'm 30 years old, from the east coast of America, and my favorite books are realistic, but stretch the truth and the laws of physics.
The narrator did well here. I would listen to her pleasant voice again.
I couldn't see this series being a very good movie or series really. It would probably end up being a replica of true blood or twilight, with more childish ideas of romance.
This book is mostly centered on the romance between the main characters, more so than the potentially very interesting story line. The romance goes inexplicably from acquaintance to undying love right off the bat, without any exchanges between the characters that would indicate their feelings for each other without the author just spelling it out for you. The heroin is not especially mature (for a doctor at Oxford!), Or likeable. Her loving, elder matriarch witch aunt comes off as a complete jerk. The story leans on narratives and elements already well traveled by the sookie Stackhouse novels and the true blood series, which should work out quite lucratively for this author. The set up for sequels in this book seems obvious and opportunistic, as it sacrifices the integrity of the story. The author jumped into all the magical elements of the world of her story so immediately that it kind of made it hard for me to suspend my disbelief, though she did recover some of that magical realism for me later on in the first few hours of the book. SOME. The only things I really admired about this book are 1.) The research the author must have done on DNA sequencing and other biology related narratives, and how well she used it, and 2.) The creativity of the elements of the story that seemed more original, like the explanations of the "reality" of witches as "creatures" living in hiding among humans, and the witches academic interest in alchemy. All in all, though I love fantasy/reality and science fiction, I would have preferred to read something else. Something more well written, and less cliche and romance focused.
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