Tag Archives: Bodleian Library

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Review and Giveaway!

5th January 2012

*This book was sent to my by Lindsay at Viking/Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

The first novel in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches is Diana Bishop’s story. Linked to witches before her, all the way to Salem, Diana shuns magic…except for every once in a while when her washing machine overflows. She’s stringent, always on guard against it, though her academic studies bely her interests. Diana studies alchemy, those intersections between magic and science. Much to her aunt’s dismay, once Diana’s parents died in Nigeria under mysterious circumstances, Diana has wanted nothing to do with her heritage. However, a strange book she calls for in the Bodleian Library at Oxford will change all that. The book, Ashmole 782, apparently interests all the magical world as its secrets pertain to them, and Diana’s research will lead her much deeper into the world of witches, vampires (and one particular vampire), and daemons than she ever wanted to go.

I have this bad habit. It’s kind of a secret, but when everyone and their mom is reading a particular book or talking about it, I am instantly turned off. Can’t help it. My sister thinks I’m a book snob, but I swear I’m not. You guys see what I read. It’s varied. I don’t only read highbrow books. Anyway, somebody stop this incessant rambling!

So. Discovery of Witches was one of those books. My mom and sis both read it. Every blogger I could imagine read and loved it. It was too much. But the fuss died down, and Lindsay at Viking sent me the paperback. Oh. My. Gosh. I can only liken my response to my total annihilation of Hostess cupcakes, should they ever be near me. It looks a little something like this…

and please, oh please do not Google "animal eating quickly" - it's disturbing

But yeah – that’s about right. I know those Hostess cupcakes aren’t really the best thing for me, but they taste. so. damn. good. Similarly, A Discovery of Witches is not the best thing for me. Why? Because seriously, Diana’s love interest, the vampire Matthew Clairmont, reminds me of one of my eternal loves – Jamie from Outlander, who turns my insides to mush. (Side note: if you haven’t read it yet, shame on you.) I felt like I was making moony eyes every time he walked in the room – Matthew, that is.

Diana meets Matthew when she thinks she’s unobserved in the library and uses just a little magic to pull a book from a high shelf. Instantly, she senses Matthew’s presence. In Harkness’s world, vampires, witches, and daemons don’t associate with one another. However, after Diana has put back Ashmole 782, suddenly the Bodleian library is full of creatures, and Matthew is oddly protective of her. Think Twilight for adults but better written.

That said, I will say there were moments when my gagging from Twilight was brought forth. Similarly to Bella, Diana is often swept into Matthew’s arms somewhat needlessly. Diana is a strong woman, a well-respected academic who has lived on her own and fended for herself. Her personality changes, though, as she and Matthew become involved. Granted, she is overwhelmed at her sudden re-entrance into the magical world and its secrets, but it grated. The story sucked me in nonetheless.

The other thing that bothered me were the sometimes blatant means of exposition. Diana uses the word chimera, but her witch aunt asks what it is, leading to the author’s definition of the creature. First, I already knew what a chimera is, and I was pretty darn sure a witch would as well. To me, this type of explanation is a bit lazy.

BUT. If you’re looking for a can’tputitdownnotgoingtosleepuntilIfinishthisbook, read this one and get ready for the second in the series this July. I assure you I will be.

[P.S. I didn’t want to give anything away, but if you’ve read this, do you see the Outlander parallel? Or is it just me?]

[P.P.S. Don’t miss Steph (from Steph & Tony Investigate) interviewing Deborah Harkness at BookPage. I knew there had to be an Outlander connection.]

Oh wait! I promised a giveaway, didn’t I? Thanks to the people at Viking/Penguin, I am giving away a paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment, including your email address, telling me your biggest literary crush. So go on, do it!