Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches is the first book in The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A beautifully written paranormal romance for adults that drew me into the story from the very first page.  4.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

Favourite Quote

There were so many to choose from but I opted for:

“A little book can hold a big secret – one that might change the world.  You’re a witch.  You know words have power.”

Review

“It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.”

I knew when I read the first words on the back of the book, I knew I was going to love this story.  And I did.  This is the second time I’ve read the book in the past few years, but this is the first time I’ve got around to reviewing it.  Reading it a second time was just as good as reading it the first time, if not better because I managed to pick up on the little things I missed, enriching the reading.

The book is beautifully and intelligently written – the author has a wonderful way with words – and I was drawn into the story from the very first page.  The descriptions of places and people are detailed enough to bring the story to life, but not heavy enough to bog it down.  The pace and flow of the book was spot-on, so the story unravelled seamlessly. The story is rich in science, alchemy and historical references, and when a chunk of the book is set in one of the most famous library’s in the world…well, what’s not to love.

All the characters were well thought out and believable.  Neither Diana or Matthew are perfect – she is wilful (sometimes against all reason) and wants to believe her academic merits were achieved without the help of witchcraft, whilst he is ancient and comes from a world where he is to be obeyed without question.  However, despite this, they are interesting and engaging, and together they have a lot to learn.  As for the other characters – I loved Ysabeau, Sarah and Em, Marcus and Miriam and Hamish.

I thought the world building was fantastic.  The distinctions and attributes of witches, vampires and deamons was cleverly conceived and clearly depicted in the story, especially the fine line between madness and genius in daemons.  Neither does the story shy away from or gloss over the darker aspectss of these creatures.

As the first book in a trilogy, A Discovery of Witches lays a good, solid foundation for the following two books.  I’m excited to read the second instalment, Shadow of Night, to find out where the story takes us next.  If you enjoy paranormal fiction, I recommend you give A Discovery of Witches a read.

Rating

4.5 / 5

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Book Review: Daylighters by Rachel Caine

Daylighters is book fifteen, and the final instalment, in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

Summary:

While Claire was away at MIT, Morganville changed dramatically.  On their return from Massachusetts, the gang are welcomed home at the town boundary by the police and quickly separated into two groups: vampires and humans.  Quickly, they realise that Morganville is not as they left it.

It seems that the Texan town has undergone a major transformation.  The town which has had a neglected look ever since Claire arrived, is now being done up.  The people are happy and carefree, and there isn’t a vampire in sight.  It should be a good thing, but there is an insidious undercurrent of evil at work…

An organisation known as the Daylight Foundation has taken over Morganville, and the residents couldn’t be happier.  However, Claire and her friends have already crossed paths with this group before and they are not what they pretend to be.

Can Morganville be saved?  And what of the vampires that live there?  This is the hardest fight Claire and her friends have had to deal with yet, and the one that has the most serious – and permanent consequences – should they fail…

Favourite Quote:

“There were a few things scarier than a bipolar vampire off his meds, but to be honest, not that many.”

Review:

This is the final book in the Morganville Vampires series, and it is both a welcome ending, but bittersweet too.  This is one of the longest book series I’ve read, behind The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters at 20 books, and the Marcus Didius Falco series, also at 20 books long.  Unlike the two latter series, I didn’t feel like these books could go on forever, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed them any less.

So, on to the review…

This book started with the major cliffhanger ending from the previous book.  As a story line for the finale of a series, this was perfect.  It was dramatic, full of action and energy, not to mention tension.  About the ending…it was what I expected, but perhaps not what I would have liked.  But then I have felt like that at the end of a number of series and trilogies.

As the story unfolds, it is clear to see just how more grown-up Claire is now than when we first met her in Glass Houses (in fact, her transformation is remarked upon by another main character).  And that is what the author has done well; shown us as the series progressed how the characters have developed and altered according to the trials they have faced.

Who am I going to miss the most now that the series has ended?  Myrnin; definitely the crazy Welsh alchemist-scientist vampire with the vampire bunny slippers.

So, to sum up…It’s sad that the series has ended, but it ended well.  I’m so glad that I came across this series and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Rating:

Book Review: Fall of Night by Rachel Caine

Fall of Night is the fourteenth book in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

Summary:

When Claire Danvers is given the opportunity to join MIT’s graduate course, it’s something that she can’t pass up.  After all, it’s been a lifelong dream of hers, and now, with the permission of Morganville’s founder, Amelie, it’s one she can actually achieve.  The only thing is, she’ll be leaving her friends, including her boyfriend Shane, behind.

When she get’s there, she is to be working with another former Morganville resident, and a former assistant to Claire’s vampire boss, Myrnin.  When Professor Irene Andersen hears about the prototype machine Claire has been working, a machine that will hopefully be able to cancel out the mental abilities of vampires, she is more than a little keen to learn more…

Everything sounds perfect…maybe too perfect.  Yet Morganville and it’s troubles never seem very far away…

Favourite Quote:

“Pish, I only lost part of my brain.  It wasn’t even the most important part.”

Review:

It was nice to get out of Morganville again to see what life in this world is like beyond the Texan town, and this really added an injection of freshness into the story.  As did the new characters that we meet while we are there.  Jesse and Pete were definitely at the top of the “new interesting characters” list.

Like the rest of the series, there is plenty of action and adventure and the story moves at a pretty fast pace.  I have read a few reviews of this book and notice that one or two people have said it would have been nice to see Claire more of a student before the usual trouble gravitates towards her.  As I read the book, it never occurred to me – perhaps because that’s not just how these things work and Claire just isn’t that lucky.  That being said, it might have been fun to read, just to see how she would cope with normal life after her time spent in Morganville.

The alternate viewpoints – between Claire and Shane – really helped in moving the story forwards as separate story threads unfolded. And as for the ending…The book ends on a major cliffhanger.

All-in-all, this is perhaps one of the best of the latter books in the series, and really rewards those who have kept on reading.  It’s a long series, but in my opinion, it’s a good one.

Rating:

Book Review: Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine

Bitter Blood is book thirteen in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

Summary:

Things are never easy in Morganville.  Now that the only thing vampires are scared of – the draug – are no longer a threat, the delicate balance in the town where humans and vampires have just about managed to get along, is thrown into disarray.  Vampires, who had kept some of their wilder instincts in check thanks to the effort by the town’s founder, Amelie, are suddenly allowed to indulge in their every whim – no matter the cost to the human population.

But this is Morganville.  Will the living inhabitants of the town decide to cower in a corner or fight for their lives?  Once again, the inhabitants of the Glass house find themselves stuck in the middle, and their list of friends is dwindling all the time…

To complicate matters further, a group of ghost hunters are in town, filming for their latest TV show.  Surely that can only end in disaster?

Favourite Quote:

I lifted up the right slipper again and addressed its soggy little head.  ‘I’m afraid I might have

to leave you behind.  And you too, twin.  It will be difficult enough to climb without you hampering me.

And your fangs aren’t very sharp.’

Review:

It’s been months since I last visited Morganville.  I must admit that I was apprehensive as I read the first few pages, wondering if I was going to enjoy this book as much as I remembered enjoying the rest of the series.  After all, we are on book thirteen now, and I kind of felt as if I was waiting for the bottom to fall out of the series; can something this good really stay this good or will there come a time when I think that the latest book doesn’t live up to the rest?

I needn’t have feared.  It wasn’t long before I was completely immersed in the town and characters’ lives once more, wondering how Claire, Shane, Michael and Eve were going to get out of the latest mess they found themselves in.  But as always, Myrnin stole the show; my favourite quote from the book is courtesy of this rather strange, wonderful character.

Again we are given glimpses into other characters POV, which certainly adds an extra dimension to the story as well as heightening the tension as the tale unfolds. There were a good number of plot twists that I didn’t see coming, and the drama was nicely interspersed with action, ensuring the pace never falters.  Al-in-all, an entertaining, addictive read.

As I write this review, I’ve already read books fourteen and fifteen in the series, so you can expect to see those reviews posted soon.

Rating:

Book Review: Black Dawn by Rachel Caine

black-dawn-by-rachel-caine-front-coverBlack Dawn is the twelfth book in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

Morganville – the small Texan town where humans and vampires live together in relative harmony – is falling apart.  After the arrival of the draug, the only creature that can truly inspire fear in the heart of a vampire, things take a decidedly dark turn in the town.  When the draug show up, vampires either run or die.

However, whilst most of the town’s inhabitants have been evacuated, Claire, Eve, Shane and Michael decide to stay and take the fight to the draug.  They do, after all, have good reason to wish them dead.

But when Amelie, the town’s founder is bitten by the master draug, not only do they have to win the battle but find a cure…before it’s too late.

I am really enjoying reading the story from the many different viewpoints, so this development in the storytelling was a great idea.  It gives the reader a wider scope and can reveal more of what is going on beyond the the main character’s immediate environment.

The draug are an interesting enemy and I found learning how they effect both humans and vampires both scary and intriguing.  There are a few major plot twists that I did not anticipate, which is always great, and the pace of the story kept me hooked until the very end.

When you reach this far in a series, you always wonder how long the author can keep you interested in the characters and the trials they face.  That doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Morganville Vampires, I am happy to say.

I am looking forward to reading book thirteen in the series, and I am intrigued to find out where Morganville and its inhabitants can go from here.

Book Review: Last Breath by Rachel Caine

last-breath-front-coverLast Breath is the eleventh book in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

When vampires start to go missing in Morganville, the Texan town starts to get a little…unsettled.  But things are about to get even more unsettling as we learn the real reason why vampires who burn in the sun are living in the middle of the desert.

Claire has spotted a stranger in town, only for some reason, he makes her feel weird.  When she mentions him to her friends, they never noticed him.  But Claire knows he is trouble…really bad trouble…worse than any vampire-related trouble she could ever imagine…

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this instalment in the series was that the author took something that she tried with the previous book in the series (Bite Club) and expanded upon it.  I’m talking about offering the readers a glimpse into the minds of a few of the other main characters from the books by giving them chapters from their point of view.

The was the most emotional of the instalments so far, I have to say.  Some parts were just heartbreakingly sad.  Rachel Caine really knows how to capture trauma and emotions in words in such a way as the reader can feel what the character is feeling.

It was good to learn some more background about the town of Morganville as well as some new things about the vampires who live there.  I also really enjoyed the short story found at the end of the book.  This one, Anger Management, is set between Bite Club and Last Breath and is a story about Shane and how he is dealing with some of the things he faced in Bite Club.  It was an engaging story and tied neatly in with everything that going on.  Great stuff.

I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Black Dawn, and hope to be posting the review shortly.

Book Review: Bite Club by Rachel Caine

bite-club-by-rachel-caine-front-coverBite Club is the tenth book in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.

Things in Morganville are never easy, but as long as the secret experiment of this small town in Texas is kept – the coexisting of vampires and humans, side-by-side – things ought to run smoothly.

However, when a new gym opens up in the town, one offering martial arts classes, things take a sinister turn.  Even though the Founder, Amelie, has said that it is fine for human residents of Morganville to learn how to defend themselves, something isn’t quite right.

When one of Claire’s classmates, turns up horribly murdered, she finds herself on the trail on something dark and dangerous…something that could blow the secret that is Morganville open wide…

Bite Club was an addictive read.  What was a nice addition to this story was the change of POV.  All the books in the series so far have been from Claire’s perspective, but this one includes a few of the thoughts and feelings of Shane.  This certainly helped me to understand his motives and behaviour when things got difficult for him.

Although there were a few twists in the story, it wasn’t hard to see where this book was going – the title was a big clue.  But that was all right; the book certainly packed a punch in terms of action, of which there was a great deal.  The pace of the book is never slow and it is always interesting to read just how Claire and the gang are going to get themselves out the trouble that finds them, always, without fail.

I look forward to posting my review on the next book in the Morganville Vampire series, Last Breath, soon.