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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by Bibliotropic ([...])
While reading through A Discovery of Witches, I confess, I couldn't help but compare it to Twilight. That being said, most of those comparisons consisted of, "This is what Twilight should have been." They share some of the same elements, chiefly a romance involving a powerful male vampire, but where Twilight stays firmly entrenched in the land of teenyboppers, this...
Published on April 15 2011 by Ria (Bibliotropic)

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 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...
Published 18 months ago by Ladybug


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review by Bibliotropic ([...]), April 15 2011
By 
Ria (Bibliotropic) (Saint John, New Brunswick Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Discovery of Witches (Hardcover)
While reading through A Discovery of Witches, I confess, I couldn't help but compare it to Twilight. That being said, most of those comparisons consisted of, "This is what Twilight should have been." They share some of the same elements, chiefly a romance involving a powerful male vampire, but where Twilight stays firmly entrenched in the land of teenyboppers, this romance is of a more mature variety. If mature intelligent adults want to fantasize about a vampire romance that's not caught up in being dark, edgy, or 'big-city' modern, this is the way to go about it!

Unlike the bulk of urban fantasy, the characters here are not hip, on the edge of fashion, incredibly popular, or filled with woes about their latest crush or how their job isn't fun. They're professionals, mostly researchers, and they come across as people who have made peace with themselves. Even the main character, Diana, who in many ways has not actually made peace with herself and her magical heritage, still understands who she is, is comfortable with herself as a person, and is refreshingly more focused on research papers than parties, scholarship more than socializing. She's the kind of character I look at and say to myself, "I want to be just like her," and I can relate to her because she isn't what so many urban fantasy heroines are. She isn't young, pretty, and modern. She's dedicated, fairly quiet, and interested in academia.

The research that the author put into this novel shows. Harkness has definitely done her homework when it comes to alchemy, genetics, location, culture, history, and, unsurprisingly, wine. While occasionally imparting all this information borders on breaking the "show, don't tell" rule of writing, honestly, I can't imagine another way that it could have all been presented in a way that makes sense both to the reader and in the way that the characters are explaining. Harkness evidently spent a good amount of time asking all the right questions (for example, if vampires have extra chromosomes, just how do they get them when they came from human stock?) and finding good answers to them that make sense. I learned a good deal while reading this, and moreover, I also experienced that mental shift that comes with asking your own questions and trying to figure out the answers about things you may never have considered before.

Harkness weaves a wonderful mystery, dropping hints in all the right places and tying things together very smoothly. She can make things sexy without being graphic, and make academia sound far more exciting than it probably has any rights to be. (At least for those who aren't total bibliophiles, that is!) Her style is wonderful, flowing nicely along and carrying the reader across time and pages to a place where they won't want to leave. This is one author well worth keeping an eye on, and I'm very excited for the next book of the series. This comes highly recommended; do not miss your chance to read this one!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down!, Feb. 21 2011
By 
Catwoman (Yukon, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Discovery Of Witches (Hardcover)
First things first -- if you're looking for a teenage vampire romance, or a re-hash of Harry Potter, this is not the book for you.

A Discovery of Witches is a fresh, intelligent, rich, and detailed re-imagining of our mundane world to include four kinds of people: humans and the so-called "creatures" known as vampires, witches and daemons, where interrelations between the "creature" species is forbidden by an ancient Covenant. But the Covenant's balance of power is only as strong as the creatures' commitment to maintaining that balance. And that balance is threatened by the raw power contained within a reluctant witch, those who desire to possess her power for their own gain, and the love of an ancient vampire.

The tale has the intellectual, detective aspects reminiscent of the DaVinci Code. It has the political and strategic aspects of a complex chess game, with creatures poised on the brink of war placing their pieces in complex plans and strategems. And it tells the story of a deep, forbidden love between an ancient vampire and a witch of great power, a love that is tested by those who would stop at nothing to preserve the ancient Covenant and possess the witch's power.

The book has the feeling of a classic epic: rich in depth, complexity and detail, all of which are interwoven into a larger tapestry which we can only see a small piece of in this novel (the story just begs for another two books in the series).

And all throughout, the author asks the question, "Is what we see in this world all there really is?" I was swept away by the author's imaginative answer. And as soon as I finished the book, I wanted to start reading it all over again.

If I could, I'd give A Discovery of Witches 6 stars. It is an engaging, intelligent and satisfying read, far above the pulp fiction being churned out in the genre today. I eagerly and impatiently await the next chapter.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, imaginative, but slightly long winded, March 9 2011
By 
R. Aucoin (Ottawa, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Discovery Of Witches (Hardcover)
I took this off my local library shelf due to the very pretty cover and was pleasantly surprised by the story. It is very well written and researched, and I wasn't surprised to read in the author's bio that she is a history professor. In fact, in addition to introducing us to a world of vampires, witches and daemons, she also gives up a peak into the world of academia (perhaps an even stranger and more unique place). The strengths of this story are in the rich detail, the interesting historical references and the original world building. One of the weaknesses was a one dimensional main character- I began to find her annoying and really wished she would just "get over it" by the middle of the book. There was also an awkward switching between the first-person narrative of the protagonist to the third-person narrative of the vampire. Finally, the book seemed to meander along with a few mildly exciting events punctuating a pretty drawn out story. There really didn't seem to be a climax, and the last few chapters seemed to lead up to nothing. Despite this, I am looking forward to the next book and will certainly get on the hold list at the library (though I'm not excited enough to buy it in hardcover).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer meet, April 25 2013
By 
Ladybug (Montreal, Qc) - See all my reviews
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
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WAIT FOR THE SEQUEL(S)!!!!!! REALLY, WAIT!!, July 1 2011
By 
C. Jones "reggiesgirl2" (NB Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Discovery Of Witches (Hardcover)
I've just read what reviews are here and I agree with some aspects of all of them. For the most part, I enjoyed the book. I like her style of writing and the story was a decent one ...

HOWEVER, I found the main character, Diana, to be too freaking irritating to be likeable. A witch, born to two witches, who has every power known to witch-hood and possibly a few not yet known, refuses to use her powers, boo-hoo, because she's soooo stubborn, just like her daddy was. Her pride in not giving in to her talents to make life easier is just a little much to swallow, not to mention the extreme intelligence that got her through school and university at such a young age and got her a fantastic job just because she's so smart. Reminds me too much of "Bella" from the Twilight series - the breathtaking beauty who can't see her own loveliness, etc. Gag. Why do authors think we'll love these "perfect" women? They just aren't real.

This witch, who is supposedly so intelligent to the extreme and so self-reliant, suddenly becomes a clumsy little girl who needs constant attention and protection when she meets the big extremely handsome and breath-taking vampire. Another gag. She does such STUPID things to get herself into trouble. You can see it coming a mile away for pete's sake!

Even with the above parts that irked me, I still enjoyed the story, although I wonder why the author rarely mentions the daemons. They're there, just not brought up except as the other of the three kinds of creatures.

The one thing I will give you as my strongest word of advice on this book ... buy it but don't read it until the author comes out with the sequel. It's got a terrible, cliff-hanging kind of ending and I wanted to throw it across the room when I realized I was actually at the end and there was no more book left to read (I was reading it on an ebook). If it had been a paper copy of the book, I most assuredly would have thrown it but I didn't want to break my e-reader.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Conceptually delightful, But..., March 30 2011
By 
Chelsea Jack (Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Discovery Of Witches (Hardcover)
There was much about A Discovery of Witches that I wanted to like. The concepts were fantastic - Harkness creates a rich world of witches, vampires and daemons, of magic and science, visions of the future and influences from the past.

She pins all of this down on two characters, Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont, a witch and a vampire, a historian and a scientist. This was an unfortunate choice. Diana is not capable of holding up her end of the story. As a noted academic with a tenured position at a young age, Diana frequently fails to live up to that intellectual hype. She does fine with books, but when trying to memorize a spell late in the book, she forgets the words and confesses to having a short attention span. Really? I mean, come on. I know that this is a witch who, though she a HUGE affinity for magic, isn't supposed to be very good at it in the conventional sense, but... really? She can't remember? She can't focus? At least explain those two character inconsistencies away with some kind of magical contrivance, please.

Diana is also prevented or excluded from having much control/input in the plot unfolding in this, and what I presume will be the series (rest of the trilogy?) to follow. For an independent, intellectual woman, she's pretty content to let everyone else in her life make decisions about the future. I found this irritating in the extreme. It's one thing to trust the experts, but its another to sit back and let all the planning happen without your input or awareness.

And while I found Matthew to be overbearing at times, at least this as keeping with his character.

This book is heavy on exposition, trying to fill in back stories and establish interpersonal histories that go back hundreds of years. If I hadn't liked the concepts so much, there's no way I would have made it to the end of the book.

Suitable if you've run out of other things to read, or are curious about the hype, but don't have high expectations.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immediately started a re-read!, March 20 2011
By 
LKH (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Discovery Of Witches (Hardcover)
I was delighted with "Discovery". It reminded me somewhat (in the scope of the plot, writing style, and the well-developed hero and heroine) of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander", which has long been one of my favourites. Some published reviewers have stated that they found the plot "plodding". I disagree; "Discovery" is clearly a first book, with lots of characters to introduce, but I found that there were more than enough plot developments to sustain my attention throughout the book. I was able to visualize settings with ease, which helped immerse me in the story. And then, Matthew Clairmont is just swoon-worthy. ;) I eagerly await the sequel!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars High Classy Trashy, Feb. 13 2013
By 
Carol Read - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
I'm an omnivorous reader and eschew the snobbery against page-turners. After all, the minority of books that achieve classic status often comes from the ranks of the bestsellers. As for the majority of page-turners...well, what's wrong with fun? I'd like to ask the author of A Discovery of Witches that question. Deborah Harkness teaches history at the University of Southern California, with a specialty in alchemical texts, but it's obvious she's read her Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer. And right there I'm hoping for that dream book: a novel that's a page-turner, involves the supernatural, but also gives a little intellectual pleasure. Big disappointment.

The novel, the first of a planned trilogy, concerns a historian, Diana Bishop, who like Harkness specializes in alchemical texts. We meet Diana in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, in the early fall. She's researching a paper that's due at a big conference in a month. Her research gets sidetracked when Diana gets hold of an alchemical text that's wanted by the three types of supernatural creatures: witches, vampires, and daemons. Diana, by the way, is a witch. She denies how much she uses magic, and she avoids other witches. Yet she's the most powerful witch, like, ever, and so attracts more attention than she knows how to handle. Some of that attention comes from Matthew de Clermont, a 1,500 year old vampire with whom she falls quickly in love. Diana morphs from an independent career woman concerned with impending deadlines into a old-fashioned romance novel heroine overcome by an older, more sophisticated, uh...control freak. Vampires are protective in a serious way. Like Stephanie Meyer's heroine Bella, Diana becomes the center of attention and drama, as various supernaturals battle against this forbidden love. Unlike Bella, Diana isn't someone the average reader can relate to, nor does Harkness anchor her heroine in everyday life. The details of Diana's life become more absurd, especially the Harry Potter-style magical house in which she grew up. Are we supposed to believe that nobody has noticed Diana's two moms are witches?

I'd rather read a page-turner with intellectual content than one without, but I'd rather read a well-written book than one that seeks to impress (or flatter). Beneath the academic frippery, there's a novel that needs better pacing, better plotting, and better characters. I'm unsure of whether or not I'll try the next installment.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Twilight Potter Davinci Code, March 22 2011
This review is from: A Discovery Of Witches (Hardcover)
I know that to really enjoy a novel like this, one must have a pretty sizeable "suspension of disbeleif" - but come on! The most wonderful, handsome vampire that ever lived, who just happened to go to high school with Jesus and was best friends with everyone from Copernicus to Shakespeare to Elvis, just *happens* to fall madly in love with the most talented, deeply gifted, every-possible-power-posessing witch?? Really? Oh yeah and he's the head of some super secret agency that has controled the world for millenia. *facepalm*

He's also secretive, overprotective, controling, etc, and she turns into a total damsel-in-distress. So familiar. She's the misunderstood orphan who doesnt know how powerful her magic is. She doesnt quite live in a cupboard under the stairs, but close.

Quick summary:
This is basicically Twilight with grown up characters, Bella is Harry Potter, and they crack the Davinci Code.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and refreshing magical story, Feb. 21 2011
By 
Blanca Alcazar "Stella" (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Discovery Of Witches (Hardcover)
A Discovery of Witches is a beautiful well written story, rich in details and colourful in imagery. While reading it I felt transported as an invisible participant in the lives of the protagonists ' Diana and Matthew. It reminded me of Anne Rice's use of prose and flourish details. The author through her characters discusses politics, history, science and how these affect them. It is a symphony of knowledge, senses and feelings all intertwined to give us a vintage tale.
From the moment I started reading it, I could not put it down until I finished it ' it left me craving for more of the story like a good wine.
The author has brilliantly presented to us the dilemmas, struggles and interrelations of the mix breeds 'the creatures' daemons, witches and vampires. I look forward to reading another instalment to learn what is next and as Bridget Bishop said we 'await the future'.
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A Discovery Of Witches
A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Hardcover - Feb. 8 2011)
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