Kristine's Reviews > A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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Mar 22, 2011

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Read in March, 2011

Well, where to begin. This story is about Diana, a very reluctant witch, who refuses to acknowledge her magic due to a prior family tragedy. Her magic is ancient and has been handed down from mother to daughter for generations. She is a historian, a Professor at Yale, in her 30's, and studying for the summer at Oxford in England. She is doing research on alchemy and its relation to science.

In this pursuit, she requests an alchemical book while in the Bodleian library at Oxford--the Ashmole 782 manuscript. It had apparently been lost for centuries and was bewitched, however these were things Diana was unaware of. She just wanted it to check alchemy symbolism.

When she touched the book, she knew something was different. She could feel the magic. And apparently the other supernatural creatures--vampires, witches and daemons--felt when the book surfaced as well. They all want this book, they all think it belongs to them, and in one form or another, they all believe Ashmole 782 contains the origins of their creation.

Another professor, Matthew Clairmont, is also interested in the book, but when he sees Diana using magic to retrieve a book from a high shelf, he realizes he's also interested in her. Oh, and Matthew happens to be a 1500-year old vampire.

Matthew takes it upon himself to be her protector, her knight. Out of the woodwork come witches and daemons and vampires, bent on destruction and mayhem and bringing harm to Diana. And there follows travel from England to France and then to the U.S. Along the way we meet a various cast of characters such as Marcus, Matthew's "son". Matthew's "mother" as well. I use quotes because they aren't biological family, they were made in the vampire way.

We also meet Diana's aunt Sarah and her partner, Emily. They are both witches. Then there's Matthew's best friend who happens to be a daemon. A couple more allied daemons show up later.

There is also a group of nine creatures, a council. They vowed 1000 years ago that creatures should not be friends, or mate, or battle each other in order to stay below the radar to humans. Apparently when the supernatural get together they sort of glow or stand out and humans take too much notice.

Matthew and Diana fall in love and decide they are soulmates. This council has a hissy fit and vows to enforce their rules by any means.

This band of merry allies of Matthew and Diana decide they will fight such tyranny.

This isn't really a spoiler, but pretty quickly Matthew and Diana are "married". In the vampire world, this occurs when a vampire says, "I love you" and kisses you. From that moment on, Diana refers to Marcus as her son, and Matthew's mother and her housekeeper, as family.

There are discussions of war, and how they will fight.

There is much talk about DNA and biology and the origin of their species. There is mention of well known historical figures and people Matthew has known over his 1500 years. There is some discussion of past historical events as well.

There are also ghosts and a house with attitude. Oh, and a boy cat named Tabitha.

Okay, that's a long bit about what the book is partly about. Now I'll share my opinion of it. The book starts of quite slowly. It's like that ride up the steep hill on a roller coaster, moving at a snail's pace but building energy and momentum.

The story finally does hit some speed and thrill but too soon it's back to climbing. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy this book. I got the book Saturday and finished it by Monday. It kept my attention quite a lot once I got towards the middle.

The romance was sweet. It was not really overt or central. It was sweet. But the sex stuff was a bit ridiculous. You'll see what I mean.

Another thing, this soulmate, we're "family", married stuff happened within 40 days.

Here's the part I had a the biggest problem with. The ending. COMPLETELY disappointing and anticlimactic. The story builds, and builds some more and then... nothing. No resolution, no action. Just over.

I sat there a moment, thinking there must be a sequel, and how I wished I'd known that before starting it. I'd rather not get into books and then have to wait another year for the follow up. I'd rather wait until all the books are out. And to me, this feels like there will be 3 books total.

I say that because this book was like a first act. The Beginning. Background story.

So be aware of that. There will be NO resolutions with this book. You will have to wait awhile for that.

I'd still recommend the book though. Just with that caveat.
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Laura Fowler That's a perfect description, thank you. This book was so slowly paced that I felt the need to start another at the same time, to feel fulfilled.

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