Christina's Reviews > A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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's review
Aug 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, ghosts, historical-fiction, magic, urban-fantasy, vampires, witches, favorites
Recommended for: researchers, anglophiles, lovers of history,

This book is good! It is no fast romp through sex and blood like most modern vampire books are. It is intelligent, thoughtful, and full of wonderful historical tidbits that only a history professor would think to match up accurately. I love that!

I recommend this book to intellectuals, researchers, history-lovers, and those that love a well-woven story that has enough information to satisfy the researcher and learner inside of you. Especially wonderful if you are an anglophile, as she connects the characters to parts of English history you are sure to find delightful when you cross their path!

This is a story of witches, vampires, daemons, and humans. How they interact, what their history is, and where it's going. It's told in a perspective with science, history, magic, and alchemy. It's open-minded, and a very beautiful tale indeed... I really enjoyed reading this book, and I will be looking forward to her next installment in this, since this is book 1.

I love her alchemical references in the book as well. As for witchcraft? It's an interesting tale of witches and their story. Her characters are intelligent, mature, and offer such a rich tapestry. This book will take you on an epic journey through Matthew and Diana's courtship and challenges. Much like modern racism today, the characters find themselves in love in a world which does not condone or tolerate the mixing of human, witch, daemon, or vampire blood. The humans are completely ignorant of any supernatural creatures themselves, but all of the others have always had agreements to how things are done. I didn't expect to tumble across this topic necessarily in this book, but it really does bring to light that love between consenting adults is love, and people will fight for it, whether they be two women, a witch and a daemon, or a witch and a vampire.

She has a brilliant approach to vampire nature. It's so logical, and it makes the concept seem so realistic. And the comparison to Twilight? Forget it. Nowhere close. That's just reaching because everything in a fans mind of vampire literature right now is either Twilight or True Blood (Southern Vampire Mysteries). And this, is neither. It's it's own story, entirely, and stands quite well on it's own too. Not to mention it's more than vampires, it's the perfectly blended story of a lineage of vampires, and a lineage of witches.

I was also pleasantly content when I happened upon the main female character Diana, being strong and not a damsel in need of a strong possessive male to run her life. Often vampire stories always have that domineering male that the female succumbs to. You may think it plays out like that, but have faith, and keep reading and you will see Diana prove her female empowerment is there in it's glory.

In regards to book length:
It's honestly not that long. At nearly 600 pages, it's not unusual for adult fiction series. However, I would liken the length and depth of this story to that of Robert Jordans series "Eye of the World" with how much information is there. Or, in some respects to how Tolkien wrote of his characters and all of their background information. One might read books and feel like they want the bottom line, no extra words, just the point of the story and nothing more. Others might read longer books and love that the characters are fully in life and there is more than just simple explanations of who they are so you can enjoy reading about them for a little while longer. I happen to fit into the latter category. If I'm going to be reading, why would I want to hurry up and just have basic details and a simple story? It's like I tell my kids... "You can read one long book, or many short ones, but in the end, it's all the same number of pages. If you enjoy the story, then why wish it to end sooner so you can content your mind by the action of picking up a new book?" Sometimes I think they get rushed up in the manner of quantity instead of being logical and just enjoying one long book instead.

Downside: I feel that the descriptions of characters seems to not leave a vivid image in my mind as I read. I find myself struggling to remember what color a characters hair is, or what they actually look like in appearance. I found that in the first 30% of the book many of the characters seemed to switch moods suddenly and uncharacteristically. I don't know if it was her intention to have them seem unstable slightly, or if it just was shaky with the writing. It seemed as though it stopped after that point though. I don't foresee this being as issue in the following books as characters are already introduced now and the momentum is going.
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Reading Progress

August 4, 2011 – Shelved
August 8, 2011 – Started Reading
August 8, 2011 –
page 15
August 9, 2011 –
page 67
11.57% "This book has the slower, in-depth feel similar to 'Eye of the World' series. Totally different style though. Urban fantasy, supernatural, lots of history, alchemy, great stuff so far."
August 10, 2011 –
page 180
31.09% "Woke up at 2am, hung out with Jim for a bit, then read until 5am. Weird night... good book."
August 11, 2011 –
page 229
August 15, 2011 –
page 340
58.72% "Books written by historians are always good.... I especially love that she studied the Tudor Dynasty in college, because those tidbits are popping up with her characters and I love it."
August 15, 2011 – Finished Reading
August 16, 2011 – Shelved as: fantasy
August 16, 2011 – Shelved as: ghosts
August 16, 2011 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
August 16, 2011 – Shelved as: magic
August 16, 2011 – Shelved as: urban-fantasy
August 16, 2011 – Shelved as: vampires
August 16, 2011 – Shelved as: witches
December 27, 2011 – Shelved as: favorites

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