A Discovery of Witches

A Novel
Narrated by: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: All Souls , Book 1
Length: 23 hrs and 59 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (33,169 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Audiobook one of the New York Times best-selling All Souls Trilogy - "a wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight” (People).    

Now “[a] hot show that’s like Twilight meets Outlander” (Thrillist) streaming on Sundance Now and Shudder and coming to television this April on AMC and BBC America. 

Deborah Harkness’ sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. 

Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar's depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense. The story continues in audiobook two, Shadow of Night, and concludes with The Book of Life.

©2011 Deborah Harkness (P)2011 Penguin

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A feast for the mind and imagination

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
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323 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

With a brush of her finger against the smooth glas

of her smartphone she paused the breathless narration. She stared at her phone in irritation, as it sat, on her plain particleboard desk, headphones dangling from the input. The electric glare from her computer monitor reflected against the phone.

TL,DR: I stopped listening because this entire book is breathless descriptions of mundane actions. It could be about half ato a third as long as it is. I don't mind detail but when you're breathlessly describing the act of GETTING DRESSED TO GO HORSEBACK RIDING?

Seriously, they just described the feel of putting boots on. At a certain point, the things I am reading need to advance the plot not just make me feel ambiance.

Some people are complaining that this is a romance, but here's the thing, I LOVE ROMANCE NOVELS. This is just... breathless descriptions of life with occasional plot points. I tried, I really did. But Nope.

262 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

True Blood PG13

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

856 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Started out intriguing, devolved into Twilight 2.0

Initially, I was delighted with this book: the studious, ambitious, highly intelligent and independent heroine appealed to me, as did the world of libraries, academia and research. Books, tea, wine and academic pursuits are my jam, and I really enjoyed Diana. Initially, that is.

As the plot progresses and the inevitable romance commences, Diana could increasingly be replaced by a sack of potatoes without the narrative suffering, she becomes that insignificant. Suddenly, she lacks drive, intelligence and initiative, becomes a woman-child that has to be lead everywhere by hand, has to have her own biology, powers and, well, everything explained to her by her romantic interest and everyone else - and just like Bella Swan, she has to be carried everywhere.

And then there's the romance, which kicks up without explanation and much reason. I'm bored and faintly disgusted by the Pater Familiaris hero archetype that Matthew exemplifies: he makes Diana's decisions for her, keeps things from her "for her own good", categorically and repeatedly postpones discussing important things with her, manages her, manhandles her around, growls and snaps and drags and "bundles" her everywhere, acts possessive, territorial and jealous, and he's supposed to be sexy and interesting and manly, instead of a giant bag of NOPE?! No, just no. Matthew outright states he's "been managing [Diana] for weeks", and neither Diana or the author seem to think this is anything but Just Wonderful. (Then again, at this juncture it's debatable Diana, the independent, intelligent academic with a professor's mental capabilities, can think at all without someone else feeding her every thought and idea; see: sack of potatoes.) The Instant Kudzu Romance Plot goes beyond the ridiculous on the WTF-meter when Matthew declares the two of them married because Diana kissed him in the presence of his mother -- and this marriage is apparently instant and binding, with no input from Diana herself. Subsequently Diana declares herself mother to Matthew's children - you know, creatures that are hundreds of years older than her - and proceeds to become instantly caring and adoring towards them. No one raises so much as an eyebrow at this Speedball Stepford manoeuvre: it's all business as usual and completely reasonable by everyone's lights.

There were parts of this novel I genuinely did enjoy: the worldbuilding is interesting, the alchemy and history woven into the plot were fascinating, and the "creatures" and their particulars and dynamics as imagined by Harkness were refreshingly different from the conventions of the genre. I found the scholarly bits and Diana's existence as a serious academic much more interesting and convincing than, well, the rest of the book, and I was disappointed that her intelligence was set firmly in the realm of "tell", not "show".

As for the audiobook, I enjoyed Jennifer Ikeda as the narrator, and found her voice very pleasant to listen to. However, Ikeda's pronunciation of anything but American English was quite lacking, and while I somewhat understand that a small, "exotic" language such as Finnish might be too tall an order, I have trouble believing they couldn't find any source of Scottish English or even a convincing French-accented English for her to listen to as a reference. I cringed every time Ikeda had to deviate from American English, and I wish whoever produced and directed her narration would have given her the tools to help her perform better.

108 people found this helpful

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  • S
  • 08-09-12

I really wanted to like it...

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.

121 people found this helpful

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Not for me

Let me preface my review by saying that you should take my review with a grain of salt. This book came highly recommended to me and seems to be pretty well liked overall. Currently, on goodreads, there are over 318,000 ratings and the book has a 4 star average.

A Discovery of Witches is book one of the All Souls Trilogy. This is the first book that I have tried from this author. I'm not sure if I would try another.

I love fantasy, witches, vamps, demons, all that. I thought A Discovery of Witches would be right up my alley and had been really excited to read it for a while. Unfortunately, I found it to be boring and it just droned on. I couldn't connect with the main character at all and had no interest in her or what she was saying because it was just monotonous. As I mentioned a moment ago, there are witches and vampires and demons and up to the point where I stopped reading, there wasn't any air of excitement at all. The main character is a scholar who spends every day, all day, in the Oxford library researching old books and manuscripts and talks about it ad nauseam. She is also a witch but refuses to acknowledge her powers and makes an effort to do everything the long and tedious way to prove that she doesn't need magic to succeed. Except for when she does use magic and rationalizes it away. When she isn't in the library she is running or rowing a boat. Couple all of that with some flowery prose and that was the beginning of the book in a nutshell. The audiobook is 24 hours long. I only made it 2.5 hours so maybe it gets better...I mean it has to, right? I just couldn't take anymore to find out for myself.

The narration was fine. I didn't have any problems with it. It seemed pretty monotone but honestly, I think that was just how the book was, not anything the narrator did.

5 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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abusive romance. no plot whatsoever.

was the NY times high when they reviewed this piece of trash? no plot. she falls in love instantly for no reason and theres nothing that makes you even like any of the characters. no personality to speak of

5 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Twilight Reject!!!!

This book is called Discovery of witches yet it focuses on a witches love and relationship with a vampire & how they might be able to have children. Where’s the spell casting where’s the action. The best part was when Diana got kidnapped by the other witch other than that boring

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Not impressed

This is just a romance novel wrapped in supernatural mumbo jumbo...meh. The characters are pretty typical for any adventure/romance. I was unimpressed.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

I liked it a lot

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

163 people found this helpful