Readers' Favorite

July 14, 2012

Must Read: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
paperback, 592 pages
Published December 2011 by Penguin
ISBN13: 9780143119685
Read July 2012
Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

A Discovery of Witches was a must read for summer. When it was pitched to me a few months back, I was so excited about the book. I even told the publicist that I don't really like fantasy but this book sounded fantastic. And I can tell you that it is indeed FANTASTIC!

It wasn't really fantasy. Sure there were witches, vampires, and daemons, but there was much more of a science fiction feel to it. It was similar to Gene Doucette's Immortal in that sense. I also found elements that reminded me of Twilight, Harry Potter, Charmed, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I should probably note that I'm relatively new to this genre and my references are all popular culture. My comparison is only in terms of themes and story elements, not necessarily writing style or technique.

Diana is a scientific historian and a witch. She is researching alchemy and the point where magic was replaced by scientific reasoning. She also happens to come from an extremely powerful line of witches, but wants to deny any and all aspect of that in her own life. For her, magic has only lead to loneliness and tragedy. Therefore, she is naive to many of the issues involving non-humans or creatures as they are referred as - vampire, witches, and daemons. Sure, she has an elementary knowledge, but not not for the finer points. 

Matthew is biochemist who happens to also be a vampire. There is more to him than meets the eye, but I don't want to give away too much. He is searching for the origin of life for creatures. I like the vampire lore Harkness develops. It seemed she took some of the legendry aspects and intertwined it with more modern approaches. Her vampires are beautiful, can go out in the sun (they don't sparkle, but there is some type of aura about them - I imagined kind of like in movies when a spotlight is shown on a character during the "I love him" scene), the sleep though not often, they even eat a bit. The most interesting twist to vampires for me at least was that they still have a pulse - lends more for the scientific than fantasy explanation. She did keep the draining of blood and drinking the vampire's blood to me made into a vampire. 

I liked the developing relationship between Diana and Matthew. Matthew is definitely a leading man, but Diana is no shrinking violet. If you are a foodie, then you will love that on almost every page there is a description of food or beverage. I had to put the book down at one point because it was getting close to dinner time, but it wasn't ready. I was starving and the descriptions were making me hungrier.

You probably already know this (because I mentioned it in this post) that this series has been picked up to be made into movies. I'm excited to see it on the big screen, but also a little weary. I don't want them to mess it up. I really hope they keep the house - it was my favorite character!

Your turn: If you've read the book, what are you most looking forward to seeing in the movie? If you haven't read A Discovery of Witches, do you like for your witches, vampires, daemons, etc to be purely fantasy or like me, prefer a more science fiction element?

If you didn't know, the sequel Shadow of Night came out this past Tuesday. I haven't gotten a copy, yet, so please don't spoil anything for me.

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  1. I picked this up recently (Kindle deal too good to pass up) and I'm so glad I read your review. I'll make a point to read it as soon as I can fit it in. Had not heard about a foodie side to this story! This is not a genre I seek out but I did read Twilight (had to see what all the fuss was about) so I'm open to reading ADOW. I hope you enjoy Shadow of Night!

  2. I think I will appreciate the movie better than the book. DHarkness' writing is superb but I feel overwhelmed wih her descriptions sometimes. But it's those specs that will help the adaptation great.

  3. I really really enjoyed "A Discovery of Witches", and read it after a friend recommended it. I was fortunate enough to get an ARC copy of "A Shadow of Night", and I think you'll love the follow-up!