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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 (30,195 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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Barbara
  • Knoxville, TN, United States
  • 02-21-11

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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303 of 334 people found this review helpful

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

229 of 253 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Bo. Ring.

Twilight for grown-ups with no less wish-fulfillment and a plot that moves at a snail's pace. Flowery language, in places too much so.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • 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.

109 of 121 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • San Diego, CA
  • 03-21-11

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

836 of 934 people found this review 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.

82 of 91 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Too much of nothing

About the best thing I can say about this book is that if you're fighting insomnia, you can plug in your earbuds and let it talk you to sleep (and it will) for at least 6 hours without missing anything important. It's not that the author is a poor writer; she does a very nice job of describing all the furniture of every place the heroine visits, every ingredient of everything she eats, every sensation she experiences. Further, she seems terribly naive and inexperienced for someone who is supposed to be a powerful, adult witch. I thought this story might at least be a fun read, but it's not, so no reason to suffer though the rest of it.

36 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

poorly written

The author veers from a decent story line to descibe useless things. Over-rated romance novel.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • 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 most terrific & non-typical treatment of Witches

What did you love best about A Discovery of Witches?

I thought the cautiously developed relationship and then to true love was handled extremely well and very realistic for a fantasy novel. Very tough to deal with archetypes that have been done to death and done to silliness like the Twilight series exemplifies. THIS work is just the first chapter in a Triology. Leaves anyone wanting more and explains why it's been doing so well on the top selling books lists in over two dozen languages,

Who was your favorite character and why?

Actually I like our heroines dead mother and father best because it is they that are truly at the heart of what we have only begun to glimpse.

What does Jennifer Ikeda bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She does a very excellent job of reading, but also bringing life and characters to all the characters she has to read for. It's never confusing which character is talking even when many are in the same scene.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It's far too long for such a thing, but I have gotten through this book and the second in a few long road trips and enjoyed the company. Can't wait for the release of the final chapter to this trilogy and hope Hollywood takes notice and chooses to make this with the same quality they are handling Game of Thrones with. Anything less, would be a waste of such excellent writing.

Any additional comments?

I think the books do speak for themselves whether in audio form as I have them, or in the written form.

90 of 104 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • DPM
  • Vancouver, BC Canada
  • 02-17-11

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

162 of 188 people found this review helpful