A Discovery Of Witches: A Novel

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A Discovery Of Witches: A Novel

by Deborah Harkness

Penguin Publishing Group | December 27, 2011 | Trade Paperback

A Discovery Of Witches: A Novel is rated 3.898 out of 5 by 49.
Book one of the New York Times–bestselling All Souls trilogy—"a wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight” (People)

Deborah Harkness’s 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 book two, Shadow of Night, and concludes with The Book of Life, coming from Viking in July 2014.
 

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 592 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 1.22 in

Published: December 27, 2011

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143119680

ISBN - 13: 9780143119685

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable I really enjoyed embarking on a journey with the main character of this book. I would definitely recommend it.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too Many Mundane Elements Plot: Pros: Overall, I enjoyed the novel. The magical elements are unique and capturing (though I'd like for them to occur more frequently than they solemnly did in the novel). The love between the characters is well described and the more 'adult' scenes are a nice bonus. The plot does not have any 'who dunnits', but there is a curious question that drives the story forward. Cons: I'd say a good 2/3 of the book could have been left out, however. I could tell the author was just filling pages in some areas (the non-plot developing library scenes/ yoga scenes etc.). The author stretched out describing a normal life too much, it was annoying, and i found she described to many things in-between dialogue. It would take 1/2 a page for the characters to get two short sentences in. Also, you may want to brush up on your history before delving into this book, as Harkness (a history PhD.) drops it right on you assuming no explanation is needed. I find this to be a poor quality on the author's part; you can't just assume your readers will understand or be able to appreciate the intricate historical detail (and opening up Wikipedia while reading the novel really sucks to put it informally). Fantastical elements of the book: Well imagined, well described and fun to read about. The witches' magic is different than that of harry potters'; no wand waving, but emotionally driven power that manifests quite uniquely. The vampires are typical of our society's current version; think of themselves as monsters, 'hunt' animals not people, 'superman' fast (for some reason) yada yada, nothing special in terms of fake/invented species. Demons are fantastical creatures that completely meld into today's world (I found them to be highly believable creatures:).
Date published: 2014-11-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good book I really enjoyed the book. The characters and history were very interesting all through. Read the book in a weekend, can't wait to start book two.
Date published: 2014-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Glad I read It A Discovery Of Witches was really good, I thought the story and characters were interesting and I am very happy about this because I do own the sequel. This was a bit overdone in some cases but as an overall it was really good. :0)
Date published: 2013-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from love it what a wonderful book stayed up most of the night reading this book and couldn't wait to read the sequel to it, is similar in nature to Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse Mystery series.
Date published: 2013-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific story I started this book with some trepidation since I thought it might turn out to be another "Twilight" teen read. WOW! Great book! I literally didn't want to put it down. A more complex story line than most readers get today. Not just another book where boy meets girl, girl loves boy, boy loves girl, they fight, they reconcile, the end. Loved the entire book. Heading right into book 2. PS: These are keepers. I will be reading them again in the future.
Date published: 2013-07-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Some perseverance required For me, this book averages 3/5 stars. I give the first 50% of the book 2/5 stars. The first half of the book introduced too many characters, mysteries and facts without context. It was too muddled a start for it to be interesting. That said, I persevered because this book had been given such great reviews. The latter 50% of the book really started to come together and build for me. The characters suddenly became interesting, the romance between Matthew and Diana bloomed, and the various mysteries gained the necessary cohension to keep you up late at night reading. It wasn't until the last 20% of the book that I finally confirmed to myself that I would be reading the sequel. Can't wait! As other reviewers have complained, the book builds to a cliffhanger and one really has little choice but to read the sequel. That said, the fact that the book leaves one wanting more is definitely a plus.
Date published: 2013-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Looking for a Great Summer Read? Here it is! This book was wonderful. This was very entertaining and with a different view on witches vampires and the two existing together. There is a ton of suspense and intrigue and the beginning of an interesting romance. There is a great deal of depth to Harkness’ characters. Diana is passionate and intelligent and I love a strong female character as a lead but don’t count out Matthew who is also intelligent and brings another level of excitement. Harkness’ brings another unique level to her story by giving us a different image of historic figures. A discovery of Witches is quite a long novel but it’s a fast moving story that shouldn’t be missed. If you haven’t yet read this series it’s time to get started, perfect summer read.
Date published: 2013-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome!! Truly one of the best books I've read in a really long time...can't wait to get my hands on the second book "Shadow of the Night"
Date published: 2013-04-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from When J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer meet If I remember correctly, I bought this book about 4 months after it was published, mainly because the abstract attracted me. I had truly enjoyed the “Harry Potter” series and I must admit that I had (and still have) a soft spot for the “Twilight” saga. The author has built here a well balanced mixture of fantasy, romance, history and suspense by focusing mainly on the mysterious alchemy manuscript that is Ashmole 782. Her story is beautifully written and includes a lot of details that helps the reader immerse him/herself into the story. I particularly enjoyed her well researched historical description as well as the description she makes of Oxford and its campus and libraries. It felt has if I was there instead of here when I read those. I felt committed to the story. Until... Until, I advanced further into the story and realized that it tended to resemble more and more an adult version of Twilight. At first it didn't truly bother me that much; should the author have adapted the love story and sensual details to the fact that her two main characters are in their mid-thirties, it would have probably been fine. The problem is that she didn't which makes this part of the plot sound unrealistic and a tad bit too cheesy. As for the characters, I found that the author’s strength lied mainly with her supporting characters (such as Marcus, Ysabeau, Sarah and Emily) more that with Diana and Matthew, who are her mains characters. All in all, a dense book where immersing yourself remains a possibility as long as you’re able to live with the occasional lack of realism of the two main characters. For more on this book and others, visit my blog at: ladybugandotherbookworms.blogspot.com
Date published: 2013-04-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Blah I actually had this book on my shelf for over a year and hadn't gotten around to reading it and in retrospect I wish that I had left the book on the shelf. The story was banal, and the characters supremely uninteresting. Needless to say I will not be reading the second book hoping it will be better than the first.
Date published: 2012-12-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dreadful This book is painfully overwritten. When anything of interest does happen, it is so buried within the mundane text that you will find yourself skimming over the endless details hoping upon hope that there will be some payoff, (for which there is none). The witch/ vampire/daemon yoga class is standout drivel and should give you some idea of the torture you are in for should you choose to plow through this dense and uneventful novel. What starts out as an intriguing mystery turns into a cheap romance novel which could have easily be titled "Witches Who Love Vampires and the Witches, Vampires and Daemons Who Hate Them." The main characters are unlikeable at best and what is supposed to pass for eroticism and sexual innuendo between the two is uncomfortably juvenile considering their advanced ages. I can't believe this is the first book of a trilogy, (which I will not continue), but considering that Harkness must explain every minute detail of her character's moment to moment existence, I am surprised that she could reign herself in at only 3 novels. The suspense for this novel hinges on what is contained in a spellbound manuscript entitled Ashmole 783 which is mysteriously summoned by a reluctant witch. She is so annoying in her unwillingness to discover and use her powers even when her life is threatened that you will simply want to slap her senseless, (and her p***y-whipped vampire boyfriend, too). Suffice it to say that the entire cast are a bunch of (rhymes with Ashmole(s) and your life will probably be better if you avoid this novel.
Date published: 2012-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic if you're into fantasy Personally I loved this book. Felt like there was so much happening and was just impossible to get bored. I heard it was kinda of like twilight meets harry potter and in a way thats true. It's a good lengthy read and doesn't just throw in all the facts but works its way in great detail through the novel - but not in a way that gets dull. It's a great read! I can not wait until the next one comes out!
Date published: 2012-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read! I couldn't put it down! I found this book on display the other day. The title peeked my curiosity, but I've been disappointed by books before and wasn't going to be fooled by the description on the back. I cracked it open and began reading the first chapter. Before I knew it I'd been reading for 10 minutes. You can always tell by the way the Author weaves a tale, weather a book is going to keep your interest. The Mystery unravels in such a way that keeps you wondering along with the main character as she uncovers the plot. I loved how the Author included science and literature and the knowledge of historical figures and events to slowly paint a picture of this incredible world. I also appreciate how the story touches on racial conflict. It may be a fictional tale, but the characters in the story are learning to fight for the right to co-exist and love whomever they love regardless of their race. I was frantically turning each page eager to see what could possibly happen next. I cheered and squealed as things began to unfold and I think I came away from it a little smarter too.
Date published: 2012-05-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Passable I picked this up because I'd been enticed by all the good reviews I was hearing. This wasn't the greatest book I've ever read, but it was all right. I know it takes time to build up the story and characters, especially when a trilogy is intended but it was too slow for half of the book and I felt shortchanged when it's slow pace didn't even reveal good, strong character development. I feel both Matthew and Diana are somewhat two-dimensional and their love wasn't quite believable for me. So often I felt Harkness was trying to duplicate Anita Blake and Jean-Claude's (Laurell K. Hamilton) relationship but never came close to attaining it. I sometimes felt Harkness was simply barreling forward without any clear direction or intention. I'll still be picking up the second installment, mostly because it takes a seriously terrible debut for me to abandon a series altogether and also because I feel like it could greatly improve once the development is over and done with... But I was a bit let down.
Date published: 2012-03-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just Couldn't Get Into It I had high expectations for this book after reading the reviews and it being recommended by a friend; however I just could not get into this book. Where so many people found it intriguing a read they couldn't put down, it took me close to 4 months to read. I just found the plot slow and boring, I didn't find much about Diana exciting or even the dark vampire hero Matthew. I think this book obviously has found many fans, sadly I just wasn't one of them. I won't be bothering with the next in the trilogy.
Date published: 2012-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Great...this book was so good and I can across it completely by accident and I think that I was so lucky to have found it. I loved the characters, the history and the romance. I feel in love with Matthew and Diana (they are the most adorable couple). I'm normally a romance novel reader but this book has opened my mind to so much. The history is really what kept me interested. I loved how Harkness created such an intricate story from pieces of history....I can't wait for the next book....summer can't come soon enough.
Date published: 2011-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put it down!! This book is the most exciting and imaginative story I have read in a very long time. The characters are unique and as their story unfolds, I'm fascinated and intrigued by the way the author draws you into their lives. Cannot wait for Book 2 of this series....there is a Book 2, right??!
Date published: 2011-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome read! I absolutely loved this book! Great story beautifully told about incredible characters! Diana Bishop comes from a powerful and well-known line of witches, but she's always rejected any use of witchcraft, instead becoming a successful scholar of alchemy. While working in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Diana unwittingly calls up a manuscript that has been hidden by spells for hundreds of years, but is desired by the witches, the vampires and the demons. Once the supernatural communities know Diana was able to call the manuscript she's a marked witch, and unfortunately, also a witch who knows nothing about her powers. Enter Matthew De Clairmont, a vampire who Diana is immediately drawn to, even though everyone around her warns against mixing of species. But when Diana is kidnapped and tortured by another witch to try to find out how she called the manuscript, it becomes obvious that more is going on and if Diana and Matthew want to be together they will have to fight some big battles. Deborah Harkness has written a powerfully beautiful, incredibly engaging first novel. The prose is lyrical and poetic, while also managing to be thrilling, action-packed and intelligent, filled with history, political intrigue, romance, family drama and of course, magic. I inhaled this story, and didn't want it to end, especially because it doesn't really end, instead setting up for a sequel. While I usually dislike books that leave you hanging, because this story was so well-written and enjoyable I was just left with my appetite whetted, and anxious to read the next book and find out what happens next for Diana and Matthew. I listened to this as an audio-book, and the narrator was fantastic, perfectly handling the many accents of the various characters and bringing the characters to life on an extra level. I can't recommend this book highly enough if you enjoy historical fiction with a supernatural focus. Fabulous book!
Date published: 2011-10-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read It kind of started out slow but necessary to develop the mythology being used with interesting twists on several popular occult figures. By the fifth chapter I was hooked and couldn't put down. Originally, borrowed from the library but when I found out the sequel is not out until November I bought my own copy to read over and over again.
Date published: 2011-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I LOVED this book and can't wait for its sequel! I knew I would enjoy this book right from page 1. For me, this book is extremely well written and full of fun and engaging fantasy (with a sexy dash o' romance). Sure, there are some cheesy bits - which had me rolling my eyes - but deep down, I was secretly loving the romantic cheese! In addition to the writing and overall storyline, I also very much enjoyed the inclusion of history. Deb's descriptions of Oxford; alchemy; old houses, castles and manuscripts... really added to my overall enjoyment. I was able to really visualize everything that Deb's writing described - I tell ya, I lost myself for several hours in this book and felt "out of place" when it was time to come back to reality. I hope you have a great time with this book like I did!
Date published: 2011-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Something with substance! I had asked my ex-supervisor at Chapters what book I should read now, since she knew that I am currently digging supernatural books (Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, Cassandra Claire, Kelley Armstrong, Stephanie Meyer, etc.). She said to me to read this book. To quote her, "It's an adult version of Twilight." So I bought this book that day and read it. When she means "adult" version, she meant that it had substance and was not geared to the Young Adults. Harkness did an excellent job! I had quite thoughroughly enjoyed the book! I LOVE history and the main character Diana Bishop is a history major in a sense. PLUS she is from a familly well-known witches (Bishop) but she tries not to use her power because she wants to make a name for herself not beacuse of her powers and name, but for herself. She meets Matthew Clairmont (a vampire) and at first have a shakey friendship at first (witches and vampires don't mix) and it eventually blossoms, and he saves her from other witches, daemons, and vampires wanting a long lost manuscript that she had found. This is left open for another book (rumour from Harkness' site is this is going to be a triology!) and I really cannot wait for the next installment. I had really enjoyed the history aspect of this because I am a history minor and some periods of time I knew what they were talking about. This was a page turner for me and if you like the others I had said above, you will love this new novel!
Date published: 2011-08-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Only thing missing is the teen angst...or maybe not This book was promising to start off. I was quickly enthralled by the combination of history with what would seemingly turn out to be a unique and plausible explanation for witches and vampires. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the book to fall to the embarrassingly teen-ish story lines of unbelievably, albeit nearly translucent vampires, weak, boyish damsels in distress and unrequited sexual desire. The book was a disappointing supernatural harlequin romance from about midway through but I kept on plugging only to be left entirely in the dark about what happens to the characters. The author has said it will be a trilogy but I can honestly say I have no desire to pick up two more of these books.
Date published: 2011-07-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Terrible I was looking forward to a fun summer read, but this thing dragged on for almost 600 pages and didn't resolve any of the major plot points. Adding a few historical details does not elevate this novel above the teeny bopper-bodice ripper vampire craze.
Date published: 2011-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Witches, Vampires and Daemons-great read This book is awesome! Witches, Vampires and Daemons in this book living in today's world. Add in some really great world history, and some modern science and amazing settings, plus just a touch of romance and you have a wonderful whole story. The book runs smoothly and there is new adventure in each chapter keeping you interested. Great for guys or gals. This is not a typical vampire book. The important themes are history and science.
Date published: 2011-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spellbinding!!! I will admit it took me a bit to actually start reading this book. I bought it after reading the description of the book, but the book sat on my shelf for a good month or so. I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book because once I started it I was hooked from the very first page, despite its slow start. Once I got into it I could not put this book down. It has been described in many reviews as the grown up version of Twilight…. ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Yes it does have a vampire and a warm-blooded in a forbidden/unlikely relationship it is NOTHING like Twilight. It is a story all on its own. It’s a tale with real magic and true storytelling. It’s a love story that comes leaping off the pages at you. Passion and sexual tension came in just the right magical mixture. Spellbinding description and bewitching sub plots were in abundance. Diana and Matthew are like no ordinary couple. Their love is doomed long before it blossomed. Yet, through the book, this love allows them to conquer, and fall, and pick themselves up again. By uniting together, they create a bond that no one or no creature can damage. The story is elegant and compelling, each and every character is well drawn and appealing in their own way(s). The romance is delightfully old-fashioned, a real courtship, something to be savored and anticipated. I was taken in and captivated by the settings, the history and the intricate tale that the author has woven. In addition to the main characters there is a complex web of other characters, which added to the story in a huge way, as the story as it turns out is not just about the two main characters, it involves all of the characters introduced. I cannot wait for the next installment of this story (coming in 2012), which this book as is turns out is just the beginning of a trilogy. Can’t wait to see what happens next. A MUST READ!!!
Date published: 2011-06-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Twilight want-a-by I did not realize this was a trilogy, so after almost 600 pages I felt like the story had just started. A B rated movie Twilight want-a-by. It was redicoulous this powerful, leader of his world, vampire was almost defenseless in an attack.
Date published: 2011-06-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Surprisingly good. I was wary after reading the summary - figuring this could either be an epic adventure or a sour read, I was pleasantly surprised when it was the first. This book was worth the page count and the slowish start and had a surprising new outlook at the Supernatural world, and a good underlying message. People love who they love. It appeared to have all the things a scholar is interested in- and greatly researched too. History, Art, War, and Libraries. You could tell the author had done her stuff. And while it was predictable by the coverlet that the boy and girl would eventually fall for each other. The way it sort of happened was good ride. Can't wait for the next book
Date published: 2011-06-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wow! What a ride! Although I am an avid reader, I will be honest in that A Discovery of Witches has plenty of “big” words that I couldn’t define without assistance. But, don’t let that deter you in the least. Harkness’ ability to so masterfully write each and every sentence allows even those of us with a “normal” vocabulary to understand her intended meaning without losing anything in translation. Let’s face it, not many of us are scholars and there are probably 1000’s of words we don’t fully understand let alone use in every day conversation but, Deborah Harkness has the ability to use whatever terminology she so chooses and still be understood! With an exorbitant amount of verbiage, some may (and have according to some posted reviews) find the amount of world building and descriptive narrative too extensive, resulting in a somewhat slow start and a subsequent time consuming read. However, for many readers such as myself, the words and sentences of a story are like movie frames, each lending more and more to the “film” that plays through our minds as we read. As long as the abundance of information is laid out in a proper and effective manner, then the more words used to describe persons, places and things, the better picture we are able to “view”. So, while there may be an exceptional amount of information, every single bit of it is worth while and contributes quite effectively to the overall enjoyment of the story. A Discovery of Witches is a paranormal adventure with a twist. Complete with alchemy, magic, long lost manuscripts and secret societies, Deborah Harkenss introduces readers to a world where many prominent scholars and political figures are actually vampires or witches and those of an eccentrically inclined creative nature are, most likely, daemons. Very cool! In this world, there is a centuries old covenant of secrecy to which all “creatures” must abide. Hundreds of years ago a group of witches, vampires, and daemons formed the Congregation whose sole purpose is to govern all creatures and ensure that all mandates of the covenant are withheld. And, should any of the rules be broken, may the good Lord have mercy upon you because the Congregation sure as hell won’t! One of the Congregation’s rules is that those of a different “species” shall not enter into relations for fear of drawing too much attention. their biggest fear is that this attention may lead to the fiercely protected secrets of all creatures becoming known to humans. Here’s where we find the “twist” to be found within the pages of A Discovery of Witches. While a thought provoking, intriguing, and genuinely wonderful adventure, I believe that Deborah Harnkess has also shared a very important lesson with her readers. A lesson though taught in many fictional stories, it’s not one usually found in the paranormal genre: “Don't let the bigots and old school prudes dictate your life. Love who you want to love and fight for the right to choose your own destiny! What may have worked in the past may not be the proper course for the future. Times change and so do people so what’s to say a new generation can’t be more accepting than the last?” You see, the main characters Diana, a witch, and Matthew, a vampire, fall in love. Despite all the rules, regulations, and reasons to the contrary, they defy the odds…and the Congregation…and fall completely and hopelessly in love. The road is not easy and Matthew definitely has his work cut out for him, but alas Diana just can’t refuse her destiny. You love who you love and no matter who tells you it’s wrong, you just can’t turn the “love bug” away when he comes a flutterin’ in your direction! Harkness brings to the imagination a wonderfully intriguing cast of characters which readers will find interesting to learn about, yet a little difficult to relate to. While all characters are well presented and lend definite importance to the story, I found that almost all had a bit of a “cold” edge which made identifying with them a bit hard. I fear that the abundance of foundation and world-building may have detracted from the effectiveness of the character development. Diana is rather “stand-offish” and frustrating in her staunch refusal to use magic. Matthew is quite controlling and somewhat abrupt. Many others just seem somewhat “incomplete”. Please don’t take these points too seriously when weighing in on your decision whether or not to read A Discovery of Witches because at the end of the day, there is just so much going on that this lack of development was really only apparent in retrospect and in no significant way detracted from my overall enjoyment of the adventure. The apparent amount of research and time that Deborah Harkness obviously spent on her “baby” is mind boggling. Complete with rich, full bodied detail and a breathtakingly intense romance between a vampire and witch, A Discovery of Witches is not a quick read to be sure, but one well worth the time required to complete.
Date published: 2011-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely a great read I loved this book....the characters, especially Matthew, the vampire. Charming, smart, strong and fierce... It started a bit slow, but once all of the characters were introduced, it really took off. It's a long book, but certainly worth the time to read it.
Date published: 2011-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Initial Outing The first three quarters of this book are fantastic. They fly by and keep you up at night. Then the last hundred pages drag along and while I value the character development. The ending felt much more like a preparation for the rest of the series. Unlike other trilogies I have read this book does not stand up on its own well. However, it is a page turning fun historical/occult action adventure up until then. Also the romance is very slow moving and a bit old school which though in many ways appropriate for the characters seems to lack some spark towards the end. There is a great deal of flourish and build up to a relationship which SPOILER ALERT is never consummated. The writing in the action sequences is great but the romantic side of the book can at times make it seem more like a harlequin romance. This is a great injustice to the overall story, but this is just the first book so hopefully the next two will improve the overall picture. I think the author does a good job overall
Date published: 2011-04-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from not so good I had high expectations for this book but was sourly dissapointed. it felt like a romance novelists attempt at the supernatural genre but predictable and empty. there are so many great books that i do not reccomend this one at all. i admit it had potential about 100 pages in but came up too short. and when comparing this to young reader works like the hunger games, twilight series and the mortal instruments series, i felt this book was lacking any of the intensity and build up one would come to expect from an adult title.
Date published: 2011-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from First in a series I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I could not put it down, and became livid when members of my family started hiding it on to watch my frustration as I searched for it. The only downside to this book is that it's the first of a trilogy. No where on the website does it say this, which is where I ordered it from. Had I known the second book is not due until 2012, I would have witheld buying it until I could go straight into the next novel. The content is remiscent of a strange hybrid of Michael Crichton's techno-thrillers and the old Diana Tregane (if I recall the name correctly!) stories featured in the Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley Fantasy Magazine (Vol. 2). There are moments of science or historical debates, followed rapidly by scenes which, for any adult lovers of Twilight, put Stephanie Meyer to shame. Readers who enjoy authors like Diana Gabaldon will surely love this book!
Date published: 2011-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from INTERESTING SUPERNATURAL READ Dr. Diana Bishop is a history scholar working on a presentation she is about to make on alchemy. Researching in the Bodliean Library she comes across an ancient manuscript that mysteriously opens when she touches it. Oh, did I forget to mention that Dr. Bishop is also a witch. She would like to forget it and live as a regular human. The mysterious death of her parents, both witches, convinced her early in her life that she had no use for her powers. However, the mysterious book brings all sorts of complications with it, including the appearance of other witches, demons and vampires intent on finding out what exactly she discovered. Included in this unwanted entourage is Matthew Clairmont, a research geneticist. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, Matthew happens to be a centuries old vampire. Needless to say a very complicated relationship forms between Diana and Matthew as they pursue the hidden meaning of the magical manuscript. I loved the characters in this book. Diana’s aunts are wonderful, Matthew’s “mother” is the perfect vampire mother-in-law, and the peripheral characters are all intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a little slow moving at first but once the characters were established things moved along nicely. Non-traditional vampires are bit of a hit and miss for me. I couldn’t get into the Twilight series and am undecided about Charlaine Harris, but Ms. Harkness did well. My only complaint about this book is that some parts tend to go on and on (and on and on) about wine. Reading Ms. Harkness’ bio I discovered that she has a very successful wine blog, so I can forgive this indulgence. The conclusion of the book was very open-ended so I am eagerly anticipating at least a sequel, if not a series.
Date published: 2011-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly entertaining! I wasn't sure if I was up to yet another supernatural work of fiction but I was very pleasantly surprised by this first of Deborah Harkness' "All Souls" trilogy. A different take on a very old story - vampires, daemons and witches but I found myself turning page after page and finishing 500+ pages in just two days. Great book to pass along to friends. Very enjoyable and entertaining. Can't wait for the next installment in the trilogy!
Date published: 2011-04-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Bewitching Although it gets off to a rather shaky start, Harkness' A Discovery of Witches is a bewitching debut. I say it gets off to a shaky start because I really had difficulty with the first chapter. I found the writing style really awkward and hard to get into. Luckily, either I got used to it quickly, or things improved in the second chapter because I soon found myself immersed in the tale of Diana Bishop, a witch who despite being descended from a long line of witches dating back to the Salem Witch trials, doesn't want anything to do with magic. It's a little odd, based on Diana's aversion to magic, that she has chosen the history of Alchemy as her field of study. On leave from a tenured teaching post at Yale, Diana is at Oxford continuing her research on the history of science, specifically the late 17th century where science begins to overtake the belief in alchemy and magic. When a routine request to see a particular document brings a magically warded, much sought-after, ancient manuscript into her hands, Diana is thrust into the middle of a string of events that make it impossible to ignore her magic any longer. She soon finds herself the target of other witches, as well as vampires and daemons. Diana comes under the scrutiny of one vampire in particular, the dark and dangerous Matthew Clairmont. There really isn't anything new here, as far as the urban fantasy genre goes, but Harkness does put her own spin on things, especially the vampire mythos. She also does a great job of weaving historical fiction, science, fantasy and romance, with a real attention to detail. It's worth checking out. Oh, and just so you are warned....this isn't just a stand alone debut, there must be at least one more book to follow because the story isn't over at the end of this installment. Man, I hate that, but on the other hand, this book was good enough that I won't mind a second dose. Bewitching indeed. 2011-015
Date published: 2011-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthralling read This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It does have some flavour of Twilight and similar books that people insist on comparing it to, but it is considerably different. I would suggest much more deep and intricate with really infectious characters and intriguing plot. I am really looking forward to the continuing story when the second part is released.
Date published: 2011-03-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Entertaining, but the author didn't do her research Overall, it's a fun read. The characters are interesting, and dynamic, even if the plot moves slowly. However, I have a science background and the author's bumbling about with genetics and biology was annoying - it's obvious the author didn't understand Darwin very well. This leaves the effect that the characters, some of who are research biologists, don't understand genetics either. Perhaps next time, the author could get a university-level evolutionary biologist to read the technical parts before publishing? I'm not well acquainted with history, but I wonder if someone who was would find similar errors in the historical parts. Anyway, if you aren't scientifically inclined, you'll probably enjoy it loads. I did, in spite of the research problems.
Date published: 2011-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read!!! This book is by far the best book that I've read in a long time!!! I've read Harry Potter and all the Sookie Stackhouse books but this tops them all!! Its so good you won't be able to put it down. The only problem with this book is I couldn't wait to read more but I didn't want it to end. I'm afraid I won't be able to find anything as good!
Date published: 2011-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A real page turner! It's been a while since I've read a real page turner, and this was definitely one of them! A great novel about a witch, a vampire, and their families, friends, and foes. A great read.
Date published: 2011-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read! I don't usually read 'supernatural' books, though I admit to reading Harry Potter and Twilight, but the magic in this book is very skillfully woven into life so it doesn't feel like you are reading science fiction. This book was a great mix of history and mystery, and, of course, a love story. Really looking forward to the rest of the series!
Date published: 2011-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you're into supernatural reading this book is for you I really loved this book. While I do like supernatural books, I have not read them all as, while I do understand they are the current "it thing" for teens, I dont want to go into "supernatural overload" and kill my enjoyment of it. This book certianly is a page turner you will not want to put down, then once you are finished will want to pick it up and start all over again. It has some romance, mystery, and a great ending that will leave you yearning for the next in the series...I even found myself laughing quite a bit. I personally wouldnt compare it to twilight, I think it has its own uniqueness that you will have to read it and judge it for yourself. Happy reading :)
Date published: 2011-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Read! I loved this book, couldn't put it down. It has a little romance, mystery, suspense, and a bit of "Di Vinci Code" all wrapped up into one. An excellent read! Would highly reccomend it to my friends. Enjoy!
Date published: 2011-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it I absolutely loved this book and couldn't put it down. I flew through it (and it's 579 pages long!) in days. Many people are saying that it's just another twilight-vampire novel: it's not. Yes there are vampires. But there are also witches, and daemons. There are a lot of books with these characters in them, if you don't like them them don't read them. If you want a great story with a mystery and fast-paced action then pick up this book. You won't regret it. I can't wait for the next two books in the trilogy.
Date published: 2011-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! I really enjoyed this book. I always appreciate when an author has a new take on supernaturals. I would rec. to anyone and in fact have. I have heard that some found it hard to get into until about Chapter 15. I did not have that problem!
Date published: 2011-03-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Extremely Disappointing! There's really nothing more disappointing than a failed book and, for me, "A Discovery of Witches" fails in all regards. It is little more than a Harlequin Romance with pretension (and spells). It is sophomoric, uninspired and poorly written but, arguably, to be enjoyed by anyone fascinated with the current, teen-centric spate of vampire sagas. Any correspondence to the early work of Anne Rice is purely coincidental and exceedingly slight.
Date published: 2011-03-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Just when you thought you couldn't read another one.... If you're like me, you've been in Vampire overload these past few years. Everyone it seems wants to write the next Twilight, and uses the supernatural beings to personify the perfect man. Well, Deborah Harkness is no different. The Vampire Matthew Clairmont is devastatingly beautiful, a world renowned scholar, has wealth beyond measure, and smells divine...And that's where the similarities end. This is a whole new take on a genre that I believed to be done to death (pun intended). This is the first novel in what I think is to be a trilogy, and what a great romp through history and lore...and an ending that leaves you begging for the next installment! Time traveling Witches and Vampires?? I'm totally in! Bring it.
Date published: 2011-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best book to date! It is a great book that gets you hooked from the begininig. it is like Twilight but a adult version with all the love, heat , mystery and excitment! great book
Date published: 2011-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Book ! I read this book cover to cover within a week of buying it. It was interesting and informative. And absolute page turner. Interesting historical facts and fantastic characters. Vampires, Witches, Daemons.. Love story and mystery. Read it if you get the chance. I hope there is a 2nd book... it deserves to be written.
Date published: 2011-02-28

– More About This Product –

A Discovery Of Witches: A Novel

by Deborah Harkness

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 592 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 1.22 in

Published: December 27, 2011

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143119680

ISBN - 13: 9780143119685

Read from the Book

Praise for A Discovery of Witches “A wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter or Twilight  . . . An irresistible tale of wizardry, science, and forbidden love, A Discovery of Witches will leave you longing for the sequel.” — People “A thoroughly grown-up novel packed with gorgeous historical detail and a gutsy, brainy heroine to match: Diana Bishop, a renowned scholar of seventeenth-century chemistry and a descendant of accomplished witches. . . . Harkness writes with thrilling gusto about the magical world.” —Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly “Harkness conjures up a scintillating paranormal story. . . . Discover why everyone’s talking about this magical book.” — USA Today “Delightfully well-crafted and enchantingly imaginative . . . An enthralling and deeply enjoyable read, A Discovery of Witches is to be the first in a trilogy and will likely draw considerable cross-genre interest. Its fantasy, historical, and romance genre appeal is clear, but it also has some of the same ineluctable atmosphere that made Anne Rice’s vampire books such a popular success.” — The Miami Herald “A debut novel with a big supernatural canvas . . . Its ambitions are world-sized, ranging across history and zeroing in on DNA, human and otherworldly. Age-old tensions between scie
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From the Publisher

Book one of the New York Times–bestselling All Souls trilogy—"a wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight” (People)

Deborah Harkness’s 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 book two, Shadow of Night, and concludes with The Book of Life, coming from Viking in July 2014.
 

About the Author

Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. She lives in Los Angeles.

Visit www.deborahharkness.com and follow “Deborah Harkness” on Facebook and @DebHarkness on Twitter.
 

 

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION

Diana Bishop has spent her entire life trying to deny who she really is. The only child of two powerful witches, orphaned when she was just seven years old, Diana has rejected her magical abilities, determined to pass as human. But with her unwitting discovery of a mysterious manuscript long hidden in the archives of the Bodleian Library, Diana is forced to face the heritage she has tried so hard to forget. The power of the enchanted manuscript, known only as Ashmole 782, is both tantalizing and intimidating and she quickly sends the book back to the stacks, hoping to return to her normal life. Unbeknownst to her, she has discovered a volume that can unlock all the secrets of her world and, in doing so, has ignited a war—and made herself the prime target.

Drawing on a wealth of knowledge about alchemy and the history of witchcraft, Deborah Harkness has crafted a fast-paced, intensely readable novel of magic, adventure, and romance. A Discovery of Witches charts Diana''s struggle to accept her family''s magical legacy, her growing understanding of the scope of the battle she has begun, and her dangerous alliance with handsome geneticist—and fifteen-hundred-year-old vampire—Matthew Clairmont.

Vampires, known for their jaw-dropping good looks and seductive charm, aren''t supposed to associate with witches, but Diana''s discovery has caught Matthew''s attention. Contrary to everything she has been taught and despite her initial reluctance and suspicion, Diana joins forces with Matthew to battle the dark spirits that are gathering around them. But cooperation quickly leads to attraction as Diana and Matthew begin to fall in love—an act forbidden by the Congregation, the covenant of witches, daemons, and vampires who dictate the rules of behavior for all underworld species and have the power to cruelly punish those who break them.

A complicated yet entirely relatable heroine, Diana must discover the surprising truth of her own legacy and realize the strength of her magic in order to prevent Ashmole 782 from falling into the wrong hands. Her journey, as well as her relationship with Matthew, will keep readers turning pages late into the night and have them hotly anticipating the next stage in her adventure. A world filled with enchantment and danger, sorcery and science, A Discovery of Witches is a sophisticated and smart novel that blends the excitement of a classic supernatural thriller with the intelligence that could be provided only by a respected scholar and skilled storyteller like Deborah Harkness.

 


ABOUT DEBORAH HARKNESS

Deborah Harkness is a scholar and writer specializing in the history of science and medicine. She has received numerous awards, including Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Currently a professor of history at the University of Southern California, her most recent academic publication is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. This is her first novel.

 


A CONVERSATION WITH DEBORAH HARKNESS

Q. Diana is an appealing heroine, determined, accomplished, and yet aware of her own weaknesses. In what ways, if any, does Diana reflect your own experience or personality?

There are some similarities—Diana is also a historian of science, also interested in the history of alchemy, and shares some of my passions (including television cooking programs, tea, and rowing). Really, all the characters have some element of me in them. I think that''s how authors create imaginary people who nevertheless feel real. The rest of Diana''s character comes from a combination of qualities I admire in others, wish fulfillment, and my completion of the following statement: "Wouldn''t it be great if a heroine in a book was…"

Q. How did you become interested in the intersection of alchemy, magic, and science? Historically, what do you see as the relationship between science and religion or mysticism?

In college, I had a wonderful professor who taught a class on these subjects. To kick off the class, he asked us, "How do you know what you think you know?" I''ve spent the last quarter century trying to answer that question. Because the world is a mysterious place and our relationship to it is not always clear, people have often turned to science, faith, and magic for answers. They help people find responses to the questions of Who am I and why am I here?

Q. You''ve written two well-received scholarly books. What inspired you to write a novel?

It''s pretty hard not to notice the popular preoccupation with witches, vampires, and things that go bump in the night. But we aren''t the first to be fascinated with these creatures. Today, we often imagine them into fantastic otherworlds, but the people I study believed that such magical beings were living alongside them in this world. So I started thinking, if there are vampires and witches, what do they do for a living—and what strange stories do humans tell to explain away the evidence of their presence? A Discovery of Witches began with the answers to those questions as I essentially reimagined our modern world through the eyes of medieval and Renaissance people.

Q. On page 72, Matthew observes that Diana sees her work as a historian as similar to that of a detective. Is this how you approach your own research? Is a novelist also a type of detective?

I definitely see my historical work as a process of detection. Historians fit pieces of evidence together and hope that they eventually form a coherent picture. Often, a historian''s most compelling questions—and the most difficult to answer—concern personal motivations and why something happened the way it did. These are questions we have in common with detectives. Fiction is more like alchemy, though. You take a little of this, a little of that, combine it, and hope that something wonderful occurs so that your creation is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Novelists, like the alchemists of old, know that true creation takes time and patience, and that it''s likely you will have many disasters and failures before you achieve success.

Q. What prompted you to include both first-person and omniscient narration? What does each method of storytelling contribute to the book?

Early in the process of writing the book I realized that vampires must be secretive and protective creatures. For Matthew, this means he has both a strong instinct to hide from Diana''s questions and a need to protect her from threats. The only way to show that dynamic in Matthew (without making the reader very impatient with him) was to take Diana out of the picture temporarily and show him interacting with others who knew him in other ways. Since Diana is the first-person narrator, this caused some problems that omniscient narration solved. I think the combination of the two narratives works surprisingly well and gives the reader the immediacy of Diana''s experience along with some answers to their questions about Matthew.

Q. Elias Ashmole and Ashmole 782 are taken from real life. Who was Elias Ashmole? Why did you base your novel on this particular manuscript?

Elias Ashmole was a seventeenth-century English antiquarian and scholar. He gave major bequests to Oxford University, including the collection of books and objects that provided the foundation for the Ashmolean Museum (which is still in operation today). Ashmole''s books and manuscripts were first kept at the museum and then moved to the university''s Bodleian Library in the nineteenth century. The Ashmole manuscripts include numerous rare alchemical texts. One of the manuscripts, Ashmole 782, is currently missing. As a scholar, I''ve done a lot of research in the Ashmole alchemical manuscripts and always wondered what Ashmole 782 might contain.

Q. There are many references in the novel to literary works and authors throughout history; for example, pages 148 – 149 include an exchange of quotes about the passage of time from writers Ben Jonson and John Milton. Do the references and quotes you''ve incorporated have any personal significance for you?

These are two authors I admire and enjoy, but the passages had no special meaning for me until I wrote A Discovery of Witches. A good romance needs a combination of tension and common ground, however, and I wanted books and literature to provide that for Diana and Matthew. A little homework in the literature of Diana''s period of specialization provided the perfect sentiments for that scene.

Q. What was your inspiration for the concept of the Congregation and its trinity of daemons, witches, and vampires?

Both came from my desire to imagine extraordinary creatures into our modern world. I reviewed ancient and medieval ideas about the organization and creation of the universe and was struck by how many of them use organizing principles based on the numbers 3, 4, and 7. Four species of creatures—daemon, human, vampire, and witch—were soon central to the novel. But I was still troubled by the problem of how humans could be surrounded by such beings and not know it. The Congregation was useful in resolving that issue because it''s an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting daemons, vampires, and witches from the majority of the population—which is human.

Q. From the publication of Bram Stoker''s Dracula in the nineteenth century to the current Twilight series, vampires have always fascinated the reading public. What is the appeal of the occult novel? What kind of freedom from the ordinary does it provide, both for readers and writers?

Vampires are relative newcomers among the supernatural creatures who have fascinated readers. The word "vampire" wasn''t even used in English-speaking countries until the early eighteenth century. Before that, readers were far more interested in ghosts, devils, witches, daemons (and demons), and exotic hybrid creatures like dragons and the basilisk. The appeal of all these creatures—and vampires, too—is that they help to explain the inexplicable. Readers and writers are given the opportunity to suspend belief and wonder How do I know there aren''t witches? and even more important What if there are?

Q. When writing a novel that involves the supernatural, it''s necessary to create a framework for that invented world, a set of rules to maintain consistency and credibility. How difficult is it to establish that kind of structure and to faithfully work within it?

As a historian of science, I study the changing ideas that past generations have had about the world and how it works. Throughout history, most educated people believed in a theory of creation that was essentially alchemical; for example: some combination of opposing elements resulted in new life if subjected to the right celestial and terrestrial influences. This was entirely logical, given their understanding of the world and how it worked. A number of ancient and medieval worldviews helped me create the logic and structure of the world of A Discovery of Witches. Once those were in place, I found them very helpful in imagining what could (and could not) happen in it.

Q. Diana and Matthew''s story ends on a mysterious note. What do you see as the next step in their adventure?

Diana and Matthew have known each other only for forty days. That''s not much time to get to know someone and fall in love. Besides, falling in love is rather easy compared with staying in love and growing into a relationship. The next step of their adventure will begin just where their last step left off—and the adventure will involve all kinds of new discoveries about themselves, each other, and the creatures who share their world.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Diana''s mother says that fear is "the strongest force on earth" (p.5). What does she mean? Do you agree?

  • Early in the novel, Harkness describes the typical personalities and physical traits of daemons, witches, and vampires. If you could be any one of these beings, which would you choose and why?

  • Who is the Congregation? Is it a force for good or a force for evil?

  • What happened to Diana''s parents? What were they trying to hide?

  • Diana studies alchemy, which she defines as a type of "science with magic" (p. 73) used to explore and understand unexplained phenomena. Do you use astrology, fortune-telling, or ESP to provide a deeper understanding of events in your own life?

  • Why is Diana and Matthew''s love forbidden? Have you ever loved someone whom your family or friends thought was inappropriate? How did their reaction influence your feelings?

  • Most of the book is told from Diana''s perspective, yet a few chapters are written in the third person. Why? What feature or purpose unites those chapters?

  • Diana and Matthew travel back to the sixteenth century. If you had the power to time walk, as she does, what period in history would you visit?

  • In chapter 31, Diana remembers the bedtime story her mother told her as a child. In what ways does that story foreshadow the events of Diana''s life?

  • Harkness presents the use of witchcraft not only as an otherworldly ability but also as a part of everyday life; for example, Diana uses a spell to fix her washing machine. Which example of the novel''s blending of the magical with the mundane did you find most entertaining or creative? If you could use magic in your daily life, what would you use it for?

  • Look at the last page of the book. What is the significance of the blood and mercury? What is the reason behind the sense of relief felt in the house? What does the last sentence of the book mean?