Sunday, January 13, 2013

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
by Deborah Harkness

When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.
For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.
Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.
(Cover from Goodreads.  Source.  Summary from author's website.  Source.)
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Publication Date: 2011

Kat's Review

I picked up this book in Nice, France, after running out of reading material and with a long bus ride ahead.  I headed into a bookstore looking for a French book, and then realized that I was in a tourist shop that only had books in English.  This one caught my eye, so I picked it up.  The cover of my book is the one you see above, not the North American one, which is why I included it in my review.  The cover drew me in, and the academic setting of what is essentially a paranormal book, won me over. 

This book sets itself apart from much of what's out there in this genre.  We learn early that Diana comes from a long line of witches, but rather than embrace her heritage, she's tried to separate herself from it through her immersion in the world of academia.  When she encounters a long-lost, bewitched manuscript in her research, she is thrown headfirst into the world of magic she has tried so hard to escape.  Her ability to pull up a manuscript that has been lost for centuries calls the attention of witches, vampires and daemons, making Diana a target.  This story follows her as she searches for the manuscript, delves into her history and begins to better understand the depth of her powers, which she has tried for so long to bury. 

 I could spend a long time trying to explain the complicated twists and turns of this book, but it would be completely unnecessary and probably very confusing.  Once I started this book, I didn't want to put it down.  I read it on the bus, before going to bed, and on the plane home.  The plot is unique in a sea of paranormal/ vampire/ witch books, and written for an adult audience without being a pseudo-erotica vampire story.  There is romance, of course, but it's romance grounded in the pragmatic issues that love between a witch and a vampire would entail.  Yes I just wrote that sentence.  If you read the book you will understand why I can write that sentence in complete seriousness.  Harkness takes the supernatural and grounds it in science, with characters struggling to fit into a world that is hostile to their very existence.  The writing is superb, the characters are complex and original, and the story is interesting, with many twists and turns.

Rating: All Consuming

I didn't want to put this book down, and will probably read it again.  I mean it when I say that I read this book every spare moment that I had on my trip.  There was something about it that was so fresh, especially when dealing with such a familiar topic that makes this book stand out in the crowd.

Buy at Amazon: A Discovery of Witches: A Novel

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