A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

To describe A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness in just two words seems a monumental task, but if I had to pick a pair to encompass this work it would be pleasantly surprising. I had high expectations for the book based on reviews and recommendations from friends, yet this captivating story surpassed them all.

The tale begins and is anchored by Oxford's Bodleian Library. I'm a sucker for books with an academic twist and Discovery of Witches had me hooked from the very start when young researcher Diana Bishop calls up a secret alchemical text from the stacks as part of her work. Diana is descended from the Bishops of Salem Witch Trial infamy, but despite her lineage she wants nothing to do with spells and sorcery. She is shocked and distraught to find that her summoning of the bewitched book has extreme supernatural consequences and sets her in the crossfire of the agendas of witches, demons, and vampires alike.

Diana finds an unlikely ally in scientist and centuries-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. More than just a supernatural protector, Matthew is a character drawn with a sophistication and intelligence congruent with his ancient birth yet still possessing the predatory instincts expected of his vampire status. With his lineage and history as intriguing and powerful as Diana's the two make a formidable team but their enemies are equally strong and undeniably ruthless.

The story that unfolds throughout the book is smart and unique. With settings that range from libraries and yoga studios to castles and genetics laboratories, I never knew quite what to expect next and the unpredictability was delightful. Blending in equal parts action, mystery, science, research, and romance, Harkness displays an exceptional gift for writing in her debut novel. Despite the book's length, I didn't want it to end, and, like many readers, I am eager to continue the story in this summer's sequel Shadow of Night.

55 Response to "A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness"

  1. Beth D. says:
    May 29, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    I checked this one out a while back and never got around to reading it and put it back, though a friend of mine said she really enjoyed it to. I will have to make room one of these days.

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  2. lisa :) says:
    May 29, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    Beth - I had this one sitting on my shelf for almost a year before I finally got to it, but I definitely loved it when I finally did!

  3. thebookstop says:
    May 31, 2012 at 6:04 AM

    This sounds great -- I also like books where the story actually involves books and research. I'll check it out.

  4. Catherine says:
    June 17, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    I loved this book right up until the end when it started to strain its credibility (credibility in a fantasy book? I know but it went a bit too far). Anyway, I agree with you on a lot of points- it was unique and I couldn't stop reading. I'm completely psyched because I'm getting an advance copy this week of Shadow of Night and can't wait to head back into Diana's world.

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