Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A change of pace after "The Hunger Games" trilogy (young adult fiction), I downloaded a more adult oriented novel: "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness.

The Audible publisher's summary:

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 theTwilight series - with an extra serving of historical realism.

I balked at the length - for the same reason that I just couldn't commit to David McCullough's novel John Adams (30 hours 1 Minute) - even though I'm very interested in the subject-matter and  I've heard more than a few glowing recommendations on the novel. The run-time of A Discovery of Witches at just over 24 hours was similarly off-putting - but based on the reviews, the presence on the New York Times Best-Sellers list and the clever summary convinced me to give it a try.

In a few words - I loved this book!! There have been a few books in the last 2 years that I've dedicated my drive times to audiobooks - The Help, The Forgotten Garden, The Book Thief, all three of Garth Stein's novels - that I've really enjoyed. All were fresh, unique and brilliant storytelling - with equally capturing narration. Solidly at the front of that pack now is "A Discovery of Witches". I love the concept, the writing was refreshing, the story was addictive and I never - not once felt like there was even a moment of extraneous material.

The characters are so rich - so likable - that I formed mental images of both Diana and Matthew - the latter I imagined looked an awful lot like another Matthew I knew in another lifetime (who wasn't a 1500 year-old vampire). I don't often find myself day-dreaming about the books I'm listening to on my commutes - but "A Discovery of Witches" was really that good.

Jennifer Ikeda's narration was superb. Absolutely superb. Her voice is warm, strong and completely plausible. Narrated in the voice of Diana Bishop (an orphan witch) - equally skillfully capturing Matthew's French mother (Isabeau), Matthew (Mattheau) as well as the American's Sarah and Rebecca.

A Discovery of Witches was written by Deborah Harkness; narrated by Jennifer Ikeda; published by Penguin Audio. A Discovery of Witches (unabridged) has a running time of 24 hours 2 minutes and an Audible release date of February 8th, 2011.

Also, for what it's worth, I managed to get through all 24 hours of audiobook in about a week-  on a week without a road-trip. I'm not sure what's next on my radio - I might just have to take some time 'off' audio content to savor a bit more of the taste of "A Discovery of Witches".

And one more P.P.S...Fair warning - "A Discovery of Witches" is book one of the "All Souls" trilogy (Deborah Harkness' website here). Book two is slated for release in 2012....Readers (like myself) who are captured by the story will have to wait for the next edition and hope that it's released on time. I have loved working my way through entire trilogies and series in one segmented lump - one after another (Steig Larsson's Girl series, The Hunger Games, David Baldacci's Camel Club, etc) without the suspense of waiting an entire year or more for the next book to come out. There's luxury in that....Now for some patience.

1 comment:

Canada said...

Diana's aunt and her female partner (both witches themselves) live, I won't spoil the surprise but its certainly no ordinary home and the events that take place there provide some of the most humorous moments in the story as well as one of the most dramatic. This novel will definitely appeal to fans of Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches and Vampire Chronicles novels and I am looking forward to the next instalment. Be warned, it has a cliffhanger ending!