A Discovery of Witches
All Souls Trilogy, #1
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Date of Publication: February 8, 2011
Abridged or Unabridged: Unabridged
Length of Production: 24 hrs and 2 mins
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 the Twilight series - with an extra serving of historical realism.
When this first came out several years ago, it was quite the sensation. I remember seeing it in the bookstores, however I never took the time to really investigate the book. For some reason, I thought it was like a female paranormal version of those Dan Brown books. Which as it turns out, it kinda sorta is. But it wasn't until the second book came out, while I was really getting into blogging that it really hit my radar and gained my interest. By that point I had decided to wait until all three books were out to read them. Then after hearing raves about them in audio, that sounded like the smarter option. So I got the first two and sat on them awaiting the third. And there they sat on my virtual shelf, gathering virtual dust, waiting to be remembered.
I think this has been my longest single book in audio format to date. I am sure that I could have read it in a quarter of the time it took me to listen to it. Then again, maybe not. Because there is quite a bit of British, French and Latin in the book, that my poor American tongue would have never been able to figure out the pronunciation of. By having someone else speak those words, I was able to concentrate on how they sounded and just enjoy the lyrical turn of phrasings. Jennifer Ikeda gets high marks for moving back and forth from British to French to American accents, as well as not stumbling over some very complicated sounding medical and alchemical terminology. She did a fantastic job.
I have never been a huge Anglophile, but it was clearly evident that Deborah Harkness is. From the food, to the buildings, to the cities and people, British Oxford was clearly more than just a setting. It was another character in the book. The characters' time spent in France and the US were more about a specific house, while time spent in Oxford covered a range of locals.
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I started this book. But it didn't matter because I was blown away by the depth and scope of the story and the characters. It was just so much MORE, you know? I was blown away by the sheer magnitude of this book and gave it 5 stars.