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A Discovery of Witches (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

I love to be surprised, and Deborah Harkness’ take on vampires and witches and daemons is wonderfully unique. With her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Harkness introduces us to Diana Bishop, related to the Salem Bishop witches of yore, who is studying the history of alchemy in Oxford. While Diana is a witch, she has no interest in using her powers – in fact does her absolute best not to use them – but prefers to immerse herself in her historical research.

However when she inadvertently unlocks a bound manuscript, one that she hastily sends back into the depths of the library, she draws the attention of the other creatures – which is what vampires, witches and daemons are called -- and that’s a bad thing because when too many creatures gather, humans are bound to notice. To figure out why she has drawn all this unwanted attention, Diana will have to come to terms with her witch heritage, and in doing so, she will break one of the main rules that govern all creatures.

Deborah Harkness has deeply impressed me with her voice and her style. She has created a world that is both believable and captivating. Her witches and vampires are fairly traditional in their abilities, but her take on daemons had me grinning – hyperactive geniuses or madmen rather than denizens from Hell. And I simply adore all her characters, not just Diana and Matthew but her secondary characters have charmed the socks off me.

The other thing I really enjoyed about A Discovery of Witches was Harkness’ literary scholarship. She ties all manner of actual historical literature into the world she’s created, and I found myself smiling with recognition and delight at some of the names and literary works she cites. Ms. Harkness has written several non-fiction books on historical literature and alchemy, as well as some works on wine, so she knows her stuff.

Be forewarned that A Discovery of Witches is the first in a trilogy, and I suspect when you get to the end, you’ll see where the next two will be going, and I bet you’ll be just as anxious as I am to read them! This is definitely one of my Top 10 for this year.


February 2011 Indie Next List

“I lost a good deal of sleep turning the pages of this tale of adventure, suspense, and romance. Ride along with this witch-in-denial and her guardian vampire prince as she struggles to reclaim her legacy and avoid the terrible fate visited earlier upon her family. The author did her homework and the history rings as true as the passion. I can't wait for the sequel!”
— Annie Leonard, The Next Chapter, Knoxville, IA


A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
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.
Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

About the Author

Deborah Harkness is a scholar and writer specializing in the history of science and medicine. She has received numerous awards, including Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Currently a professor of history at the University of Southern California, her most recent academic publication is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. This is her first novel.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780670022410
ISBN-10: 0670022411
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: February 8th, 2011
Pages: 592
Language: English
Series: All Souls Trilogy