A Discovery of Witches - All Souls, Bk 1 Author:Deborah Harkness 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 ... more »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.« less
Well, I guess I'll end up being a nay-sayer here. I was both impressed and disappointed by A Discovery of Witches. The first 20 pages were great - brilliant - and introduced a genuinely novel hook, not just an enchanted 'lost' book, but a palimpsest. I was delighted. The book was returned to the Bodleian stacks of rare books and the promise of a great book was lost. What could have been an original became a Romeo and Juliet 'forbidden romance' story that plodded for nearly half of its almost 600 pages. Then in the last 150 pages the whole thing shifts gears and becomes something else entirely - and ends just as it was getting interesting again.
The single best word for this book was FRUSTRATING. The writing was excellent, the pacing glacial then hectic. Prof Harkness has a real gift for lush prose and descriptive settings, but it doesn't carry through to her characters. Certainly, her love of wine, and of Oxford, and the famous Bodleian comes through. But the real measure of a great book for me this - can I see where this is going, and is that route interesting? By page 100, it was obvious where the next 500 pages would go, and lush prose aside, the forbidden romance thing was just not enough to hold me. But time travel - REALLY? GAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! Did she miss a cliche?
Any way, this odd mix of really good and really ordinary got a C+ from me. And someone get her a ruthless editor. The book needs to be trimmed by 150-200 pages to improve pacing and give the last 150 pages more space for development.
This story reminds me of what might happen if Diana Gabaldon, Victoria Holt, and P.C. Cast had collaborated on a book. The author has an engaging voice, a gift for visual description, and the story kept me interested.
Chapter One was possibly the Best First Chapter I have ever read. Harkness did an outstanding job building anticipation. I could feel the character's excitement, that 'can't wait to experience what happens next' flutter that tightens your innards, and shortens your breath.
Having said that; the plot was slow to unfold, had little momentum, and Ms. Harkness did one hellofa job burying the lead. I'm not sure I'd have finished it if I hadn't been in bed with a cold, and it was the next title due at the library. I didn't really get into the story until around page 420. And my favorite character was the house!
If you love reading slow, richly detailed sagas; this is the story for you!
I was absolutely gobsmacked when I finished the book and realized that the story is just beginning. Discovery is basically backstory. I just slogged my way through 500 some-odd pages of sometimes tedious minutia and didn't get my biscuit! Talk about a letdown.
Ms Harkness has done a stellar job laying the foundation for what could turn out to be a wonderful saga but I haven't decided if I will read the sequel. Especially if it is as slow to build as the debut.
I placed the book on reserve at the library after reading about it in my Costco magazine, in Entertainment Weekly, and on various e-mails from online book vendors. It's a good book, a quick read, but I was ultimately disappointed because it wasn't a great read. I think my expectations were too high because of all the hype. And I was disappointed that some things were never resolved in the 579 pages, that in another year or so there will clearly be another volume.
Part of my frustration lies with the trend of cliffhangers among science fiction and fantasy writers. I like series and evolving storylines, but I also like books to be able to stand alone.
Too much superfluous information and scenes -- the book could have been written in half the pages. I got tired of it before I got half way through and quit reading. I couldn't get into the characters or the story.
I waffled back and forth between 3 stars and 4 stars and settled ultimately on 3 stars. I prefer the Anne Rice world of witches and vampires to the Stephenie Meyer or Charlaine Harris worlds. I like my paranormal universes to be dark and I don't mind a story steeped in history - even history of science. With that said, I found the Deborah Harkness world of witches and vampires to be closer to Anne Rice albeit much lighter but pleasantly heavy on the history. I suspect I may enjoy All Souls Trilogy #2, Shadow of Night, even better as it looks like it will be even heavier on the history. After having become convinced that all contemporary paranormal fiction was a lost cause, I'm happy to have discovered Matthew, Diana and the work of Deborah Harkness.
I really LOVED this book! It has so much history involved in it that is essential to the story line. (I love that!) The characters are fleshed out in a way that you can understand the essence of who they are and why they make the decisions they do. I don't have any negative critiques about this book. I just hope that the rest of the series isn't a let down. That happens so many times in books about witches, IMO.
Unfortunately this not-very-well-written book was a big disappointment. It's quite a mess plot-wise, though it got a little better towards the end. Mostly though I was disappointed in the supernatural characters (witches, vampires and daemons) after having read several much better authors of this genre like Charlaine Harris and Anne Rice, who sort of spoiled me for this author's work.