Review No.75 – A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness

Headline, 2011

When Diana Bishop, a historian specialising in the study of alchemy, finds an enchanted book in her pile of requests at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, she is unnerved by the promise of its power. Diana turned her back on the magic that is in her blood a long time ago. But returning the manuscript can’t reverse a chain reaction of events already set in motion. Oxford is soon teeming with other ‘creatures’, among them Matthew Clairmont, a vampire with a very personal interest in the manuscript that it seems only Diana can access. As her life becomes more entangled with Matthew’s, and more crowded with creatures, her magic begins to resurface – whether she wants it or not.

An excellent title and intriguing blurb were enough to make me pick up A Discovery of Witches, but it was a struggle to finish it. I took a deep dislike to the character of Matthew from the start – his possessive, controlling behaviour towards Diana was disturbing, as was Diana’s quick acceptance of his heavy handed presence in her life. There were clever elements to the story, including a house haunted by witches and the application of alchemical allegories to modern science, but I cannot say I enjoyed this book at all.

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2 thoughts on “Review No.75 – A Discovery of Witches

  1. Oh thank goodness! This book got so much hype but I struggled with it, for exactly the reasons you say (and also, I didn’t really think it was very well-written, but you’re probably too nice to say that!). It was a DNF for me, and I took it out of my last school’s library collection, which I hardly EVER do to newish books!

    • I had to finish it or else I couldn’t review it – and I had a few things to say about this one. You know a book’s central romance has failed when the heroine is kidnapped and I, as a reader, am going, “oh yay! Maybe Matthew will never find her!” What is it with vampires and stalker issues? Is immortality really that boring, or is it the chronic lack of sleep impairing their judgement?

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