'Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.'- Angela Carter

Monday, 25 June 2012

Review: Deborah Harkness - 'A Discovery of Witches'

Deborah Harkness – A Discovery of Witches
A Discovery Of Witches


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

My Rating: 4/5*

Harkness’ novel instantly jumped out of me as an avid fan of the paranormal and supernatural genres and it did not disappoint. The novels protagonist Diana is, at the beginning, sucked immediately into a world of which she is trying to repress - that of which contains the magical creatures and elements with which she grew up. We slowly begin to discover her heart wrenching reasons, that of the loss of her parents. As the novel unfolds and she discovers the alchemical manuscript, her world begins to unravel with the only stability being found through the mysterious character of Matthew Clairmont. I am not going to include any major spoilers in this review as I urge ANYONE who reads this review to read this book and lose yourself within this hectic world that Diana finds herself lost in!

Despite the depiction of Diana as a whole being that of a dominant strong female figure at certain points of the novel I found myself exasperated by her consistent moaning and no way is it natural to sleep quite as much as she does! I think she spends at least 50% of the novel asleep. Regardless of this, the novel is split into several perspectives allowing us to view the tale as it unfolds from other characters point of view. This allowed me to be more forgiving of Diana as, let’s face it, she does find out the real reason of the death of her parents, that’s not something that can be brushed away. The frustration of her neglect of her powers and her lack of confidence in her ability DESPITE her constant display of the wonderful powers (in which hardly no one else possesses by the way!) is incredibly frustrating, but despite this the figure of Matthew, her aunts and the Clairmont family outweighs this creating a more sympathetic and empowering atmosphere.

Throughout the novel, I was pleasantly surprised to lose myself within the mass of historical knowledge that Harkness shares with us. It was refreshing to read something so well researched and the details added massively to the novel in itself. As a recently graduated English Literature student, I got my thrills from recognising the various quotes flitted throughout the book and my inner nerd was ecstatic with the amount of knowledge within a fictional narrative. The conclusion of the novel in which contains Christopher Marlowe has left me buzzing for the next novel as I adore his play, Doctor Faustus and I cannot wait to see what Harkness unleashes with the mixture of Marlowe with her key characters.

This is a novel which is action packed, well researched and absolutely amazing to read, despite the whining of Diana. Bring on a Shadow of Night!


  1. I didn't like Discovery of Witches. I thought it was pretty good for about the first 1/4 or so and then it got boring. I think I gave it a 2 star rating on GR and after thinking about it, I went back and changed it to 1 star. So obviously, I had decided not to read Shadow of Night. But, I love that time period and when reading the summary all sorts of real life people from that time- like Christopher Marlowe- make an appearance. So, when I got offered an ARC, I decided to give it a try. (There was no way I was buying a sequel to a novel I had 1 starred. Plus, I actually paid for Discovery of Witches)

    I'm surprised, but I really do like Shadow of Night so far. I hope it stays good.

  2. I have to agree with 365_books_a_year. I love the premise of the book but it started off too slow for me. I haven't been able to finish it.

  3. Wow, I am incredibly jealous that you have Shadow of Night! The thing I find with books now is that they are so expensive it takes me awhile to buy them!

    Brandi - I totally understand what you mean, I didn't see where the book was going for awhile but I am glad I stuck in there right to the end as it does improve - honest! lol

  4. Thanks for your thoughts : )

  5. I really need to read this! :)
    I think the author is historian, so that's why it's so well researched. But I had no idea there were also literary references! That's amazing. :)

  6. I read this book last year and loved it! Your review helped me to recall many of the important aspects that I liked about the book. I don't remember Diana sleeping so much, but it has been awhile. I want to read the sequel Shadow of the Night, but I know I'm going to have to go back and re-read this book first so I can remember where the story left off. *Sigh* So many books out there I'm dying to read.

  7. One of my favourite genres, in reading the comments though I think I may give this one a miss.

  8. I love that it starts off in a library! I like that it's well researched, not surprising though with DH's background, and I like the idea of the science and literacy references. Mixed reviews here but I've heard more good recs about it too so I decided to get them all and plunge in and decide for myself. Plus I often like a lot of Leah's choices too so that's a good sign :)

  9. this definitely looks a great read!

  10. I agree with you about Diana - it took me a while to stop being irritated with her. I much prefer Matthew - but I read a fair bit of vampire fiction so this is understandable. The story is interesting and I loved the bonkers Daemons. My Rafflecopter entries for the book giveaway are in my real name NIKKI HAYES ;o)

  11. Hahah I laughed at the bit about the heroine moaning as that seems to be a common theme running through these types of books. I do really like the sound of it though


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