As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive.No, we're not a bunch of literary pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.
Jessica Day George - Young Adult & Middle Grade Author
Amy Finnegan - Young Adult Author
Kim Thacker - Writer and Mommy
January 20, 2012
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, by Deborah Harkness, 2011
Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. (Goodreads)
Reviewed by Laura Madsen,
mom, veterinarian and writer
Dr. Diana Bishop is a
visiting scholar at Oxford. As a historian of science, her research focuses on
sixteenth-century alchemists. She spends her days in the university library,
translating ancient illuminated manuscripts. She’s also a witch, descended from
a powerful family burned in Salem, but avoids using any magic. One day she
calls a rare manuscript from the stacks and recognizes its magic but quickly
sends it back. The entire paranormal community starts hounding her, and she
learns that the manuscript has been thought lost for over a century. Allegedly
the manuscript reveals the origins of the four races on this planet: magical
witches; cool, ageless, predatory vampires; artistic, mad daemons; and
blissfully unaware humans.
One paranormal creature who
is drawn to her is Dr. Matthew Clairmont: brilliant scientist, wine
connoisseur, and gorgeous vampire. They fight over library space and bicker
their way into falling in love. He does what he can to protect her, but fellow
witches and vampires close in, intent on probing Diana’s magical abilities and
her connection to the lost manuscript.
The story is exciting, with
twists and turns, violence and romance. Deborah Harkness, a historian herself,
successfully weaves together alchemy, witchcraft, evolution, mitochondrial DNA,
wolf behavior, mythology, religion and history. The settings are beautifully
described, from the libraries and boathouses of Oxford to the magical Bishop
home in New England, and the descriptions of tea, wine, and English breakfasts
(piled high with toast, eggs, sausage and fried tomatoes) are crave-inducing.
Most of the chapters are
written in first person, from Diana’s point of view, but a few chapters are in
third person, following other characters, primarily Matthew. Normally, when authors
switch between first- and third-person it drives me nuts, but in this case I
loved the story and characters so much that I am willing to overlook the point
of view changes!
My only complaint is that the
novel is the first of a trilogy so I must wait to find out what happens next.