Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness

Read: March 03 to 05, 2011
Hardcover, 579 pages, Viking Adult

I tend to be wary of any book that comes with a large publicity campaign. I’m not sure exactly what publicity surrounded this book but there was a large book cover prop in the window at Posman Books in Grand Central.

When I saw the title I knew it was a hot genre book and I was further wary of it.

I tend to wonder if a novel will be worth my time when the main character can be seen, at least in great part, as a mirrored image of either the author or myself (in truth or dream).

A Discovery of Witches isn’t a perfect novel by any stretch and perhaps that is why I enjoyed it. The writing meanders and whole chunks feel Twilight-esque with a scenery change and older characters.

Confession: I am a sucker, hook line and sinker, for contemporary urban fantasy if it includes England and the locale includes Oxford, there is no hope for me. That Harkness’ novel included Bodleian library was an extra special dessert. I enjoy historical fiction, having read several of James Michener and Edward Rutherfurd’s works before I turned 16.

But it is in the locale, the alchemy, and the science where Harkness succeeds and her experience as a historian of science and wine connoisseur, shines. Diana and Matthew are secondary, though well written; the world building foundations that are laid, the experiences in Matthew’s laboratory and the descriptions of Bodleian — wow. The research Harkness did for this novel comes through and the result is an enjoyable read.

I recommend this book if you wish to curl up with a nice cup of tea and a comfy chair for a rainy afternoon or three! (In other words, the wonderful wet weather NYC is experiencing this week).

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One Reply to “Book Review: A Discovery of Witches”

  1. […] the second volume live up to the first? I was lucky and able to check out both titles from the library in rapid succession so after […]

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