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

Book Review: Jingle Spells edited by Heather Marie Adkins (part 1)

Up first for 2016’s Festive Reads Fortnight is Jingle Spells, a multi-author anthology from CyberWitch Press, which you can download for FREE from Smashwords.  I usually review the short stories in an anthology individually, but this time I am going to divide the review into two parts.

Now, before we begin, a little disclaimer: this post is equal parts shameless plugging and book review.  Why?  Because I have a short story in it.  Needless to say, I’m not going to review my own contribution, but I will add a short description of what it’s about, just in case anyone is interested.

So, let’s begin…

Jingle Spells is the first of the CyberWitch Press Short Fiction Anthologies, and is edited by Heather Marie Adkins, who runs the small press.  She also designed the pretty cover.

Solstice Flames by J. Laslie

Solstice Flames tells the story of Anya Sutherland, an ordinary girl from Meade Harbour, Massachusetts, awaiting the coming of the school’s Holiday Dance, where rumour has it, Heath Lockhart was going to ask her to go with him.  Anya couldn’t be more excited or more nervous, but in the run-up to the dance, something she can’t explain begins to happen to her…

This was quite an individual tale, where the modern world maintains out-dated laws.  I really felt for Anya, and I wasn’t sure how the story was going to end, which kept me guessing until the very last lines.  A great read.

A Midwinter Manifestation by Sammi Cox

It is Midwinter Eve, and Maeve Featherstone, a modern-day sorceress, is having a quiet night in and hoping to plan her Winter Solstice celebrations.  However, her presence is urgently required at Evie Whitworth’s house. Evie has repeatedly been told to stop dabbling in magic, but she never listens.  The question is, what has Evie done this time?  Will the arrival of an unexpected guest ruin the festive period for Evie and the entire village of Wood End? Not if Maeve can help it…

This is the first short story to feature the Secret Sorceress, Maeve Featherstone, but look out for more from her in the future…I have a few ideas planned, and some all ready finished…

The Witch’s Shoes by Sidonia Rose

Arwen goes out one evening with her cousin to a club, in the run-up to the winter solstice.  In the club she meets Brogan, next to whom she wakes the following the morning, only to find that the room is full of falling feathers.  It’s clear that magic is afoot, but Arwen has no idea who Brogan is and what his presence means for her.

This story is told from both the viewpoints of Arwen and Brogan, which added a nice dose of humour to the story as we saw it unfold from their individual perspectives.  An interesting read.

Part 2 will be posted soon…