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3.9 out of 5 stars
A Discovery of Witches: A Novel
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2011
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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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2011
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
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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on April 25, 2015
just a delightful read when I want to snuggle with a book and a hot cuppa tea. This book took me away from all the challenges and issues of my life - throwing me into a fantasy of witches, vampires and daemons. I love it and am getting ready to dive into book 2. Really well done.
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on February 8, 2014
Loved this book because it is a very entertaining novel. The author's style isn't particularly good, and the story isn't complex or sophisticated, so she won't get a Nobel Prize for it. But it is a very good light novel.
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on June 16, 2014
I loved this book. The discovery of forbidden love and a fantastic plotline makes this book one you will read again and again. I can hardly wait for the next one...
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on May 26, 2014
I bought this book at Costco never thinking I'd get so hooked. Finally, I've read both books in less than 2 weeks, and this for a second time, while waiting for the third and final book to come out. I simply can't say enough about the historical details and air about this book!!!
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Historian, Dr. Diana Bishop, comes across a rare manuscript and inadvertently breaks a spell to open the book. Magic doesn’t frighten her, as Diana comes from a long line of witches. She’s not the only one interested in the book, however. Other witches soon appear in the area, along with daemons, and one particularly alluring vampire named Matthew. Despite her best efforts to avoid him, she’s attracted to Matthew, and soon falls in love. In this world, though, relationships between species is reviled and there is a price to pay. Over the following weeks, not only is Diana and Matthew’s safety threatened, but it becomes clear that other witches will do almost anything to obtain the book and acquire Diana’s unique powers. Trouble is brewing, and that trouble could trigger war.

A Discovery of Witches is a terrific story. While the romance between Matthew and Diana is the primary focus in the book, there are far more layers than forbidden love. There are plenty of historical references, but the underlying thread centers around Diana’s struggle to accept who she really is. Diana prefers to live with humans and never use magic for reasons you’ll learn in the book, yet circumstances are forcing her to face her fears. This is a book about finding’s one’s place in the world, despite great obstacles. It’s one of the best fantasies I’ve read in the past year.
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on June 26, 2013
Loved this book. The second book is great too- can't wait for the third one to come out! Easy read, great characters.
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