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Publisher's Summary

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

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    849
  • 1 Stars
    637

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    11,453
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    3,599
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    1,218
  • 2 Stars
    267
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    229

Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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    3,767
  • 3 Stars
    1,657
  • 2 Stars
    740
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    626
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  • Overall

This is a romance!

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.

80 of 107 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Where was this woman's editor?

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?

33 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Twilight for adults

I found the description of this book very misleading. The storyline of witches, vampires and demons and the mystery of a magical book is what drew me to this novel. Instead, I found it to be a very overdone story about how much the main character wants to have sex with vampires. I'm not sure what the draw is, but I found the "love story" part of this novel worse and worse as the book went on.

It also seemed like the author lost track of the story, as by the end, it was very confusing as to what everyone was doing, what their motivations were, etc. Basically, this book read to me mostly as a "Twilight for adults". The main character, on one side is the "most powerful witch ever" and on the other side she needs to be completely taken care of and babied the entire time.

To make it worse, the part of the story that I was actually interested in (the mystery about the "magic book") as well as most of the rest of the conflicts is never resolved at the end. Even with some random deus ex machina (an enchanted house and time traveling) the author doesn't even bother tying the story together. I certainly will not be bothering with any sequel if it's written.

78 of 105 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wow...

The only thing more annoying than having to listen to someone describe the smell and taste of wine is having to read about it.

30 minute wine tastings and listening to someone reading in the library day in and day out gets really boring.

I enjoyed the first 5 hours of this book. It is really interesting and well written, but once the main characters begin dating it really drags down the story. It doesn't even have a proper ending. It really leaves the book wide open for the next installment, but if i had loved the story that may have been alright.

Sorry to those who loved it, but i would rather imagine how delicious food is or how beautiful a sunset can be. Don't try and describe every nuance at length for hours on end.

Narration:

Wonderful job! Really saved the story at times.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Derby
  • WEST NEWTON, MA, United States
  • 02-24-11

Couldn't finish

An ancient manuscript, modern-day witches, vampires, demons... all the elements of an absorbing read, if not great literature, you'd think. But A Discovery of Witches manages to make it all ho-hum, poor to no character development, no real sense of danger, a toothless vampire who takes our heroine, a witch reluctant to use her powers, for lattes and to yoga classes. And endless tedious details, obscure Latin quotes, and references to the character's smells, left me wondering near the end of the first installment, if anything was ever going to happen. The love story left me cold, the mystery failed to excite me and I had to give it up, especially when I read in another review that the ending is not really a resolution, but instead paves the way for the next book...

27 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jodi
  • acampo, CA, United States
  • 05-24-11

Another vampire romance

I guess I should have read the reviews first. As it is, I got stuck with a Twilight knockoff. The writing isn't all that bad, but I don't really care what the characters ate, how they dressed or exactly how utterly, completely and thoroughly they were kissed. A plot would have been a nice addition; there's just no room with all those wardrobe changes. Save yourself a credit unless you enjoy romances. I suppose this one isn't bad as romances go.

21 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • BJG
  • Ellicott City, MD United States
  • 03-28-11

Too inconsistent

The book is narrated well, but the story has a very frustrating stop and start pace to it. It's about a non-practicing witch who comes across an enchanted manuscript while doing research at Oxford University. After she finds it, demons, vampires and other witches start bothering her. One vampire takes it upon himelf to be her protector and, of course, he's sexy and mysterious and, of course, they fall in love. The parts about the manuscript are pretty intersting. The parts of the two main characters falling in love is so slow. Whenever they are alone together I press fast forward. Another problem I have is that we are told that the main character is one of the most powerful witches ever and super brilliant and all that, but she never does anything brilliant or use her powers or show us in any way that she is who we're told she is. She actually has a DNA test that indicates all the powers she has but all she does is spend too much time describing a yoga class or a horse-back riding trip. Perhaps all the good stuff is being saved for a sequel. I'm not finding out, though. Waste of a credit.

40 of 54 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Typical Vamp Romance

I've been searching for ages for supernatural fantasy books that aren't completely focused on some supposedly powerful woman who spends a lot of time putting on clothes and being protected by dark and mysterious men. I have been disappointed yet again. I don't know if the author was trying to take all the standard tropes and prove that if you wrote them well it'd be good or if she saw the recent releases list and decided to cash in. I don't know why this book had so much PR wasted on it when it is so very mediocre and tries nothing original beyond taking place in a slightly different setting and having a longer sentence structure than most other books in this genre. Everything that is bad about this influx of chic lit trying to masquerade as fantasy is here from the whiny helpless heroine to the repetitive descriptions of every single outfit she wears.

29 of 39 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • CrzGzr
  • Northwest North Carolina
  • 02-27-11

Good idea but....

The premise and plot showed promise but the main character was just silly. She is unrealistically naive and immature. She is too full of herself, when she tries to impress a 1500 year old vampire with her knowledge of tea and he seems impressed and unaware of tea after spending several hundred years in England, I just laughed. It is as though the author attempted to write a Harlequin Romance and replaced the romance with scholarly academics. There is absolutely no chemistry between the two. FInally, the ending was not an ending. One gets the impression that the book is twice as long and she cut it in half hoping for a sequel.

26 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

So Bad It Made Me Angry!

Is it this easy to get published? I have never abandoned an audiobook, but after 4 hours, I'm done. It defines bad. It's boring, I don't like or relate to the characters, the narration is bad, there is no sense of being in England (could just as well have taken place at Harvard, or what the hay, UCLA), and the title should have been "My Laundry List of What's Cool About My Vampire Boyfriend." This book really got my gag reflex going. I came home after listening on the bus and I was cranky. Finally, I realized it was because I wasted my credit, and my valuable time listening to this amateur crap. Also, would people please cease writing about 500-plus-year-old vampires in love with women in their early thirties. What's the deal - arrested development?

50 of 68 people found this review helpful