Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Genre: Fantasy, paranormal fiction
Publisher: Viking
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy won in a giveaway on My Friend Amy‘s blog
First line: The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable.

Diana Bishop comes from a long line of witches, but her heritage as a witch is something she wants nothing to do with. She has instead steeped herself in the study of history – more specifically, the history of the ancient science of alchemy. When she requests a manuscript known as Ashmole 782 from the Bodleian Library at Oxford, she has no idea that the manuscript will start a string of events that will make it impossible for her to ignore her inherent magic. She becomes the target of other witches, as well as vampires and daemons, and is immersed in the mystery of what exactly Ashmole 782 is. Thrown together with the mysterious, magnetic vampire, Matthew Clairmont, in spite of the fact that vampires and witches have always been natural enemies, Diana is left to question everything she’s been told about her past – and her future.

I loved this book. No, really – I LOVED this book. In fact, I loved it so much that when I closed it, my first thought was, “There’s something about this book that reminds me of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.” For those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you know that this is high praise indeed. There are many, many differences in the two books – vampires, witches, and daemons being the most obvious – but there are some similarities, too. Both books are steeped in history and historical research. Both deal with the idea of time travel. And both have an epic, magnificent romance at their heart.

Deborah Harkness has created a completely real world – a world not unlike our own, but in which four races have co-existed throughout history. She has completely built her world – world-building galore, people! – and yet done it in such a way that the story never drags. And that is an amazing thing, as this book weighs in at a hefty 579 pages. Every time I had a question about the world of the book, I would find the answer very soon – as if the author had anticipated my every query. She has created such an authentic history and mythology, such real characters and settings, that I found myself dreaming about these characters and this world while sleeping. It takes a really good book to do that.

I know I’m gushing, but I don’t know how else to get across how much I adored this book. It has so many of my favorite things: an academic setting; the study of history; elements of the paranormal; spine-tingling creepiness in parts; descriptions of wine that had my mouth watering; a plot that kept me turning page after page long after I should be doing something else; and, of course, a delicious, ages-enduring romance. Bottom line: read this book.

Now I’m off to find something else to read while I wait anxiously for book two in the series, which doesn’t come out until next year. Sob.

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36 Responses to Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

  1. Misha Mathew says:

    I am so glad that you LOVED this book since I bought it recently. Now I can’t wait to read it ! :D
    I did not know there is going to be a second book too. I hate waiting!

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I’ve heard alot of good things about this book, but never seen it compared to Outlander! OMG! Well, I’ve been on the hold list for the audio for some time at the library. I am patiently waiting…
    Sandy´s last post ..Sunday Salon- Rufus the Wonder Pig

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – after re-reading my gushy review I wonder if I’m going to have rabid Outlander fans furious at me for the comparison, but I don’t care, that’s the thought that ran through my head when I turned the last page. :) Hope the audio reader does it justice!

  3. Coffee and a Book Chick
    Twitter: coffeebookchick

    I cannot wait to read this one!! It should be in my mailbox any day now!
    Coffee and a Book Chick´s last post ..The Wolves of Andover- by Kathleen Kent

  4. Beth Hoffman says:

    I’m reading this right now, and so far I’m loving it.

  5. Pingback: Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness | BOOKS ... Books Empire | Books Empire

  6. Melissa says:

    I have to get this book!!!
    Melissa´s last post ..Random Ramblings Nay- Versatility!! An Award

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Melissa – hope you can get your hands on a copy soon!

      • Melissa says:

        I read this book last week and after nearly putting it down after the first 50 pages…I pushed through to page 100 or so and promptly fell in love! The rest of the book flew and I was so sad to see it end…with a cliff hanger of sorts nonetheless! I can’t wait for book 2!

  7. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    My sister adored this book too. She said she didn’t want to do anything but read it once she started it.

  8. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly

    Wow! You blew me away with this review, Carrie! Now that I know this is just the beginning of the series, maybe I should wait until next year before I start reading it?
    Vasilly´s last post ..It’s Monday! What are you reading

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      V – well, it does definitely leave on a cliff-hanger, but at a natural point for the story to take a turn in another direction. So while I can’t wait for book 2, it wasn’t the same kind of “Oh, no!” ending as Catching Fire. Does that help? :)

  9. iliana says:

    I have this book on my shelves – oh I must read it soon! Great review! I admit I was not a fan of Outlander – I did love the historical aspects and time travel but the romance didn’t work for me. Anyway, looking forward to this one very much!
    iliana´s last post ..Whirlwind

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Iliana – I think the other aspects of this one will grab you enough even if you don’t like the romance. And there isn’t any wife-spanking in this one! LOL

  10. Trisha
    Twitter: Trish422

    I have this one waiting for me but I’ve been distracted by other books recently. I think I’ll save it for the readathon.
    Trisha´s last post ..Book Review- Fablehaven

  11. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna

    I had the same feeling when I closed this book – I LOVED IT. I can’t wait for the next one! Great review.
    S. Krishna´s last post ..Book Review- Artifacts – Mary Anna Evans

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Swapna – I know! The only thing that could make it any better is if book two was coming out right NOW!

  12. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads

    I just started reading this so just skimmed the review. Comparing to Outlander is high praise indeed. I was due to return the book today, and was thinking about doing so, but I might risk a couple of days worth of fines to finish it first.
    Marg´s last post ..Weekend Cooking- A visit to a French patisserie

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  14. I just rec’d my copy! I too am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series and you have really piqued my interest with your comparison!
    Annie@ButteryBooks´s last post ..Comment on Anna’s Book by Barbara Vine by Leigh2002

  15. Jacqui says:

    Omfg!!! I absolutely loved this book. I didnt want this book to end so you can imagine my excitement at the announcement of book 2 of 3!!!!!!

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  18. Pingback: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness | Iris on Books

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