11 Dec 2011

Ten Things I Love About ... "A Discovery of Witches" - you need to read it!

I often find that the books that I not just enjoyed reading but actually LOVED are the ones that are the most difficult to review. When something is so good, it is just hard to really do it justice and I end up being so worried by my own ability to share the wonderful-ness of a book that I just don't review it. How sad is that?? So now I am going to stop being such a book-coward and will review one of the best books I have read in 2011. "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness. However, as it is such a great book, I am going to go about reviewing it an slightly different way than normally because otherwise I will just end up rambling. They who call it "Twilight" for adults have gotten the wrong end of the stick because this book is so much more than that.

The story is impossible to sum up really but it all begins with American historian Diana Bishop who is doing a stint at University of Oxford as a visiting professor. Diana comes from a long line of witches and her family story goes all the way back to the witch huntings in Salem. However, Diana want nothing to do with all that. She just wants to be a regular historian and she has devoted her life to the academic world. One day the peace is shattered when she comes across a magical book in the Bodleian and unleashes a string of events that she had never thought possible.
Suddenly she is surrounded by magical creatures - witches like herself, vampires and daemons. Especially one vampire, Matthew Clairmont, a gorgeous professor, is constantly following her around and Diana has to find out if he - and the others - are friends or enemies and why they are all going crazy for the magical book.

So here are ten things I love about this book:

1) First of all: Diana Bishop herself. This is a cool chick - best paranormal heroine, I have ever come across. This is not a girl but a real woman, an intelligent woman with a career in academia and an independent spirit. No little-girl-whimpering here, no ma'm. This witch is a kick-ass lady who rows to get energy out of her system and who has been taught to stay well away from vampires. Which brings be to number 2...

2) Matthew Clairmont. This guy is in a league of his own when it comes to the dream-man-factor. First of all, he is hot, like sizzling hot. He is also a professor, specialized in genetics. He is French and has a family castle somewhere in a lovely, rural part of La France. He does yoga but not in the girly way - in the I-am-so-much-man-that-I-can-do-this-without-coming-across-like-a-metrosexual kinda way. If you gave me the choice between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Clairmont, I would actually have trouble choosing!

3) The title. "A Discovery of Witches". Just that was enough to make me want to read it.

4) Diana's relationship with food. This is a woman who (like myself) will get really grumpy when she is hungry. No salads or fat free options here, it is a fry up all the way.

5) The bad guys. Harkness does "bad guys" very well, making them mysterious, yet humane and interesting. There are no real black/white personalities but lots of grey areas and it seems like a lot of the evil stems from ambition and greed. I like that - it always frustrates me when an author introduces characters that are just evil without any sort of explaining factor.
The size. This is a long book and I am so very grateful for that because it is so good that I just wanted to keep on reading.

6) The locations. If you have ever dreamt of studying at Oxford or going to stay at a French chateau then this book will definitely reignite those dreams.

7) The value put on family and friends. One of the things that often annoy me with the paranormal romance genre is that family and friends are somewhat "lost" as all focus is on the lovers. Even in aforementioned "Twilight" which has a rather strong cast of friends, they are not really that important. In this book, they are and family plays a really important role as well as the safety net that will always be there. Good strong values.

8) The dry humour. Diana is a girl with a really dry sense of humour and even when the action begins to unfold there is room for observations of the comical. She is one of those girls that you would love to have a cup of tea with while discussing all of the foolish things that humans do.

9) The supernaturals. These are better than in most other paranormals. Often the authors fall in the trap of making everything so strange (like sparkling in sunlight or tattoos randomly appearing??) that it is hard to keep a straight face but in this one, the differences are more in temper and habits which makes it so much easier to accept.

10) The fact this this is the first in a trilogy! I was so worried that this was a stand alone because I want more! Luckily Harkness is already working on the sequel "Shadow of Night" and though I don't like that title as much as I loved "A Discovery of Witches", I am still really looking forwrad to getting my hands on it.

If you are looking for the perfect Christmas holiday read, look no further but to "A Discovery of Witches"


  1. I haven't read many non-YA books recently, but I do have this one on my Kindle. Your review made me really excited to give it a shot during my upcoming winter break. The setting sounds wonderful and I really want to get to know this Matthew Clairmont! Love the list format review!

  2. You liked this a lot more than I did. I wanted to like it, but I didn't realise it was a series before I started and so was frustrated with the unresolved ending and the sudden shift to action mode near the end of the book.

    Oh, and I finally got around to reading Purge on your recommendation! I loved it, my review is here: http://tinylibrary.blogspot.com/2011/12/purge-by-sofi-oksanen.html