I read an ARC of this book way back in November, and I've been babbling on about it since. Yesterday, it finally went on sale at bookstores across the US. I'm reposting my review from November to remind you to read it!
Here's my review from BarnesandNoble.com. I can't wait for this to be released in February, so I can tell everyone about it! Go to Deborah's website for more information on Discovery of Witches.
Posted 11/23/10: This book is just flat out awesome. Sometimes when you pick up a book, within the first few pages you know you're holding something special in your hands. This is one of those books. It is unlike any paranormal novel I've ever read. It's a smart, sophisticated tale of Diana Bishop, the last in a long line of powerful Bishop witches, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire who has lived 1500 years. It takes place in Oxford, England. Diana is an American professor who's in Oxford researching ancient alchemy books when she calls up Ashmole 782, a manuscript that possibly holds the secrets to the origins of four species: humans, daemons, vampires, and witches. Diana's magical abilities unlock the spell keeping Ashmole 782 from all of those who desperately want it. She quickly sends it away, and the race is on between witches, daemons, and vampires to control Diana and find the manuscript again. Matthew is also after the manuscript, but his growing feelings for Diana soon begin to eclipse his need for the ancient manuscript. And he is the only one who can protect Diana. This book is written for an adult audience--wine, alchemy, genetics, and the world of the supernatural all combine to put you on the edge of your seat. The novel is long--almost 600 pages, but the story flows along quite nicely, building into an incredible ending. Can Diana tap into her powerful magical abilities in time to save herself and Matthew? Can a vampire and witch break an ancient taboo and be together? Will Ashmole 782 give the answers everyone has been waiting centuries to find? You must grab this, sit down, and begin reading this immediately when it comes out in February 2011. It is amazing! And, best of all, it's the first in a trilogy.
Here's a review from NPR. I have to say, I didn't find Diana quite as annoying as this review did, but I agree wholeheartedly on the rest of it:
|The Surprising Charms Of 'A Discovery Of Witches'|
|February 9, 2011 Share|
|View and comment on NPR.org|
|"Not enough cackling."|
That's what I tweeted about 25 pages into A Discovery of Witches, the fantasy romance that became the number one bestseller in hardcover fiction yesterday before it was even officially released, thanks to terrific buzz and humongous presales.
Not only did the cackle shortage suggest a certain humorlessness, but something about A Discovery of Witches seemed contrived. Even cynical. For Pete's sake, it's a book about a witch who falls in love with a vampire ... while uncovering radical secrets that a small, conservative cabal is determined to protect. What, other than cynicism, could draw such a book out of a respected academic who studies the history of science and medicine?
I darkly suspected author Deborah Harkness of just following through on the dinner-party game of ginning up ideas for zeitgeist-button pushing bestsellers. "Let's see ... a unicorn in a Depression-era traveling circus run by a vampire!" "Oooh, how about a vampire who's chased by members of a secret Catholic cult through Italy, India and Bali, learning valuable life lessons along the way?" "Nooo, a politically incorrect vampire who was horribly abused as a child rescues a lovable vegan Labrador from Swedish Nazi sympathizers!") This book seemed like that.
That the witch and vampire are really into doing yoga? Did not help.
A Discovery Of Witches is certainly annoying at the beginning. "What got me away from Madison was my intellect," heroine Diana Bishop smugly pronounces. Her amazing intellect is aided by "a prodigious, photographic memory." That's not all she has going for her, either: Bishop is a Yale professor spending a year at Oxford. She's described as an "extraordinary" actress and a disciplined athlete, and she's constantly rowing or jogging.
You sort of want to kick her.
But against all odds, A Discovery of Witches becomes increasingly charming as it goes along. There's a fine story here, centered on Bishop's discovery of a manuscript that promises to unleash all sorts of magical mayhem. Harkness tucks in bright plot twists and details based on her studies of the history of science and of really, really good wine. It's a shrewdly written romp and a satisfying snow-day read for those of us who heartily enjoyed the likes of Anne Rice and Marion Zimmer Bradley. By the book's rousing end, I didn't even miss the cackling. In fact, I was impatient for the sequel. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.