Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jenn's Review: A Discovery of Witches

Summary:  Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

Review: There was a lot of hype surrounding A Discovery of Witches, but we all know that's no guarantee of a fantastic book. Such is the case here. It's not fantastic; it's fabulous.

It is one of the few reads where I wasn't analyzing as I go, I was just enjoying the story. As a matter of fact, the only time I was aware of the fact that it was a story at all was when I was bothered by that troublesome need to flip the page. It's so rare that I loose myself in a novel like that. I didn't identify bits of foreshadowing or archetypes, I just read and enjoyed the journey. And if anything, it is a journey. On the surface, it may seem like not much is happening, but things are constantly evolving. If you aren't smitten with Deborah Harkness' style of writing, I perhaps could see not enjoying the novel. Ms. Harkness delights in the details and glories in thoroughness, but that's what made me love it. She doesn't gloss over the science or the history of it, but she doesn't get so bogged down in semantics that she looses the reader. Deborah Harkness knows her stuff.

Honestly I am having trouble writing my review because I don't want to deconstruct it and examine the parts that made it work so beautifully as a whole. In a way it reminds me of Rebecca Maizel's Infinite Days (the YA book that made me fall back in love with vampire stories) in that it's a refreshing twist on the paranormal genre. Sometimes I feel like paranormal books are paranormal for the sake of being showy paranormal. But there is no splashiness here just an ever evolving story with enigmatic characters that just happen to be paranormal. And that is what I love most of all. The romance of it all and the blossoming of the story are beautiful. A Discovery of Witches is not pretentious; it just is.

And while Deborah Harkness leaves us on the cusp of another huge adventure, she doesn't end the novel too soon.  There were plenty of places she could have stopped where things were far more precarious, but she sees the plot through to it's natural pausing place. Am I still itching to continue the All Souls Trilogy?  Absolutely!  It will not be long before I pick up Shadow of Night, but I don't need to jump right into it. I'm still too busy savoring A Discovery of Witches and rereading my favorite little bits of it.  It's one of those novels that stays with you long after you put it down.  It's one of those books I will re-visit for years to come. I can't wait to see where the rest if the journey will take me.

Final Take:  5/5



Books Etc. July 18, 2012 at 7:27 PM  

I freaking LOVED this one. I just finished Shadow of Night this week and loved that one too. History and magic unites so wonderfully in her books. I'm so interested to see how it all wraps up!

Vanessa Kelly July 25, 2012 at 6:10 PM  

I absolutely LOVED this book - my favorite in years, I think. Your take on her writing is perfect. It's deceptively simple and almost defies analysis, but it's completely satisfying.

I have Shadow of the Night sitting on my coffee table as my next reading treat!

Jenn July 28, 2012 at 9:32 PM  

Shadow of Night will be read soon, no doubt. :)

Anonymous ,  July 29, 2012 at 12:14 AM  

I have this one on my shelf. Glad to hear you think it lived up to the hype!

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