Thursday, August 11, 2011

Joint Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Deep in the heart of Oxford's Bodleian Library, scholar Diana Bishop requests a manuscript called Ashmole 782 in the course of her research. Coming from an old and distinguished lineage of witches, Diana senses that the ancient book might be bound up with magic - but she herself wants nothing to do with sorcery; and after making a few notes on its curious images, she banishes it quickly back to the stacks. But what she doesn't know is that the old alchemical text has been lost for centuries, and its sudden appearance has set a fantastical underworld stirring. Soon, a distracting horde of daemons, witches, and vampires descends upon the Bodleian's reading rooms. One of these creatures is Matthew Clairmont, an enigmatic ad eminent geneticist, practitioner of yoga, and wine connoisseur - and also a vampire with a keen interest in Ashmole 782.

Equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense, A Discovery of Witches is a novel of epic scope, traveling from the cobbled streets of Oxford to the chateaus and mountains of the Auvergne to a small town in upstate New York. It also takes us into a rich fifteen-hundred year history that spans Clovis and the Crusades, the Knights Templar, and the American Revolution. As Matthew and Diana's alliance deepens into intimacy, Diana must come to terms with age-old taboos and her own family's conflicted history - and she must learn where the modern woman she is meets the source of ancient power that is her legacy. With a scholar's depth and the touch of a great storyteller, Deborah Harkness has woven a tale of passion and obsession; the collision of magic, alchemy, and science; and the closely guarded secrets of an enchanted world.

Today I bring you a three way conversational review between Kelly from The Written World, Heather from Capricious Reader and myself! Kelly has the first part of the post, Heather the second part, and this is the third and final part of the conversation! Heather's thoughts are in black, Kelly's in light blue and mine in dark blue.



Marg: Let’s talk about the main characters, Matthew and Diana. I’ve already mentioned that I found Matthew to be a droolworthy. He is portrayed as handsome (of course), extremely intelligent, rich, urbane and more. Was he too good to be true (ignoring the whole vampire thing of course)? How about Diana? Was she too naive at the beginning?

Heather: Matthew had to grow on me. At first there was that whole “what are his intentions here” and all. He was so secretive and standoffish and mysterious! And yet, he was mysterious. And as you say, obviously handsome. And the more we the reader got to know him, the more, well, too good to be true he became (and partly why I constantly compare him to Edward) (sorry!). He may be a smidge “too good to be true,” but I think that’s part of his charm. Plus, he’s just so damn well read. I would kill for his library. What isn’t there to like about a gorgeous man who will live forever and has a library like that? I mean really.

As for Diana. Her naivety was part of my problem with her. She was so I AM NOT A WITCH in the beginning, but then it didn’t take her long to embrace it. At least it didn’t feel like it to me. And then she got kinda Bella on me with all the neediness. HOWEVER. I do think she has the potential to become very un-Bella like in the next book. I’m dying to read what happens after she truly comes into her powers!


Kelly: Yes, I can totally see how Diana was a lot like Bella. She seemed to change rather drastically in personality. I was not very impressed when she started to like Matthew just a bit too much for my liking. I am very sick of the obsessed romance plot-line at the moment. It turned out to be a minor problem for me, though. Diana had other characteristics that made up for it and I think she will really grow in the second book. I am looking forward to seeing more from her! I don’t really think she accepted her ‘witch’ abilities that easily, though. She had them her entire life and tried to ignore them, but we learn that there is a lot more to that than she was aware of, so it is hard to say what would have happened if she had been allowed to grow-up normally.

As to Matthew, I was just jealous of his library. Actually, the houses that he lived in sounded pretty amazing, too! He might have written a bit too ‘perfectly’, but he has had many years to develop his persona. If she had written him like most men then it might not have seemed as believable that he was very old and worldly. That’s my thought anyway.

Marg: I really wanted to say how much I loved Matthew and Diana together as well though. He knew her strength before she did, but even then was surprised and impressed by her. She drew him out of himself, making him realise that he held himself apart from the people in his life, and I loved the connection between them. This was one of my favourite moments between them.

Quote from page 340

"There you are," he said. "I thought I was going to have to fish you out of the water."

Desire shot through me, and my knees went weak. The feelings were exacerbated by the knowledge that what I was about to say would wipe the smile clean off his face.

Please let this be right, I whispered to myself, resting my hands on his shoulders. Matthew titled his head back against my chest and smiled up at me.

"Kiss me," he commanded.

I complied without a second thought, amazed at the comfort between us. This was so different from books and movies, where love was made into something tense and difficult. Loving Matthew was much more like coming into port than heading out into a storm.

"How do you manage it?" I asked him, holding his face in my hands. "I feel like I've known you forever."

Kelly: I just have to say that I read this quote and was left thinking if I hadn’t read this book all ready, this quote would not have lead me to it. I just thought that illustrates well the different tastes of readers that would love this book.

Marg: For me it is really that idea of coming into port that I really loved, but needed the rest of the quote for context!

One thing I loved about the book was all the description of food and wine. You could tell that the author loves her food and wine, and even a couple of the trailers show her talking about food and wine.

Heather: You KNOW I loved the descriptions of the food and wine. I have yet to find a wine I like (I’m not much of a drinker) but this book made me want to run out and buy until I find one I love as much as Matthew obviously relishes his wines.

Kelly: I went through a moment earlier in the year where I was going to understand the whole attraction to wine, but I never did go through with it. I live in an area where there are several vineyards, but even though I have gone to tastings I have never been able to find a wine I like. I think when I read books that wine features in a great deal, I always want to know what the big deal is. I suppose it is like people trying to understand my obsession with reading. They can try it, but they can not necessarily have the same connection.

Marg: So in closing, would the summary be that Marg loved it from beginning to end, Kelly loved it after a bit of a slow start and Heather really enjoyed it with a couple of reservations?

Kelly: That sounds about right to me! I am really looking forward to the sequel next year. And, now it is being said it is going to be a movie. That can be both a good and bad thing. I suppose we will have to wait and see!


  1. I have never seen a three person review before :)

    Oh this book, I just do not know. The library has it but if one of you say slow beginning, well that means even slower with a translation

  2. This was a lot of fun! Thanks for reviewing it with me. :) I will be very happy next year when I read the second book. I will actually be able to link to a review! lol

  3. You know how I loved this book, and I can't wait for the next in the series to come out. There is so much potential and possibility with this series, and I am so excited to see what comes next! I also loved your three person review, and think it was just the perfect way to explore this book. I think every part of the spectrum was represented here, and I really enjoyed reading it!

  4. Zibilee, have you seen that the title of the second book has been announced, Shadow of Night, and that they are working on a movies of the trilogy?

    Kelly, it was fun!

    Blodeuedd, I've never done a three person review before! I guess the only way to find out really is to give it a try.

  5. Thanks for discussing this with me and Kelly! It was a lot of fun and you definitely added to my enjoyment of the novel. I can't wait for the second book to come out next year!