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'A Discovery of Witches' by Deborah Harkness

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Manda Scott
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Location: Shropshire, UK
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'A Discovery of Witches' by Deborah Harkness

Postby Manda Scott » Thu July 14th, 2011, 11:23 am

I'm not sure where to put this... it's a modern-day novel (tho' at the end, it is shifting back to Kit Marlow's Tudor times) set in Oxford - first of the 'All Souls' trilogy. Its primary protagonist is Deborah Bishop a witch (descendent of Bridget Bishop who was burned in the Salem witch hunts) who is living an academic life as a human, trying not to use any of her powers in order to avoid the fate of her parents - both killed when she was seven years old. IT features a vampire - actually, a whole family of vampires, a set of daemons, who are the unstable geniuses - and precious few humans amongst which all of this is set.

When Diana, who is researching ancient alchemical texts for a conference talk, requests the text 'Ashmole 786' from the library stacks, and finds herself in possession of an enchanted text - she sends it back. But in doing so, she has made herself the target of every witch, vampire and daemon around - because the text might contain the secrets of how they are created and how different from humans.

Set in Oxford, France and Connecticut, this is an academic historian's joy - full of references to alchemical texts, old manuscripts and historical factoids all of which I am sure are true (the author is an academic historian with a specialism in alchemical texts and a CV of prizes as long as... the back cover of the book) At a rough guess, I'd say she's also a pagan and if she isn't gay, she has a lot of friends who are - the various sexualities are well represented through the book, never patronisingly and while the central couple maintain the now-traditional celibacy in the face of overwhelming passion, it's explained well.
Where the author veers off her own topic, she doesn't abandon the academic interest. Her vampire may have been a crusader, a revolutionary and a resistance fighter in previous times, but now, he heads a laboratory investigating DNA and she's done her work well - the intricate details of DNA and RNA are well explained and make sense in the context of the plot.


I would have said there was no more room for another vampire-romance, but this is way, way above the norm - it's intelligent, thoughtful, interesting - written by someone who is clearly far, far brighter than the average and doesn't hesitate to use it - but who gives us a joy of a book - something to lose yourself in for a night or four.
*******************************

Bestselling author of
Boudica: Dreaming. INTO THE FIRE out in June 2015: Forget what you thought you knew, this changes everything.

[url=http:www.mandascott.co.uk]http:www.mandascott.co.uk[/url]

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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Postby Vanessa » Thu July 14th, 2011, 11:55 am

I read this one recently and thought it was excellent. Loved it!
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Manda Scott
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Location: Shropshire, UK
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Postby Manda Scott » Thu July 14th, 2011, 12:34 pm

I think we have very similar tastes...

:)

m
*******************************

Bestselling author of
Boudica: Dreaming. INTO THE FIRE out in June 2015: Forget what you thought you knew, this changes everything.



[url=http:www.mandascott.co.uk]http:www.mandascott.co.uk[/url]

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey & Pushing up Daisies by M C Beaton
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Thu July 14th, 2011, 1:14 pm

I'm eagerly awaiting the pb version of this - it sounds great and not just a soppy romance (yuk) either. Another description I read reminded me very much of the Dark Materials - the Oxford setting, of course, and the daemons - but it sounds original enough in it's own right to be interesting. Can't wait! Thanks for your review.
Currently reading "To the Bright Edge of the World" by Eowyn Ivey & "Pushing up Daisies" by M C Beaton

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Miss Moppet
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Location: North London
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Postby Miss Moppet » Fri July 15th, 2011, 7:06 pm

"Madeleine" wrote:I'm eagerly awaiting the pb version of this - it sounds great and not just a soppy romance (yuk) either. Another description I read reminded me very much of the Dark Materials - the Oxford setting, of course, and the daemons - but it sounds original enough in it's own right to be interesting. Can't wait! Thanks for your review.


I really wanted to like this but it flew after about 150 pages, partly because the pace was glacial, and partly because I did think the romance was soppy and cliched. Others have loved it though, so you may well too! For what it's worth, I found the atmosphere similar to the Outlander/Cross Stitch series, which also wasn't for me, so if you liked that you may well like this.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey & Pushing up Daisies by M C Beaton
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Fri July 15th, 2011, 8:17 pm

I've only read the first Outlander book, and enjoyed it although I didn't rave about it the way most people have, but thanks for the heads-up. Discovery...sounds much more my thing, although it's true that it has had a few mixed reviews on Amazon.
Currently reading "To the Bright Edge of the World" by Eowyn Ivey & "Pushing up Daisies" by M C Beaton

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Manda Scott
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Location: Shropshire, UK
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Postby Manda Scott » Mon July 18th, 2011, 3:45 pm

I think it's a Marmite book though that may only make sense to UK readers - 'Marmite' is a yeast-based spread that people either adore or loathe - there is no middle ground (for the record, I adore it, but am allergic, which is so sad). But I am coming to the conclusion that all the best books are 'Marmite' books - if someone loves one, someone else will loathe it with an equal passion - if everyone really doesn't care either way, then it's probably too tedious for words.

m (who has to give due credit to Rob Low for talking about 'Marmite' books this weekend - not my idea)

[Edited to say - this is definitely pure escapism- Harry Potter for sort-of grownups; it's a very different book to say, 'Wolf Hall' or 'The Emperor's Gold' or Rob Low's 'The Lion Wakes'
*******************************

Bestselling author of
Boudica: Dreaming. INTO THE FIRE out in June 2015: Forget what you thought you knew, this changes everything.



[url=http:www.mandascott.co.uk]http:www.mandascott.co.uk[/url]

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Leyland
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Location: Travelers Rest SC

Postby Leyland » Mon October 31st, 2011, 8:06 pm

Thanks for the heads up and your recommendation, Manda. I've just ordered a copy via Amazon and am really looking forward to the read.
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams ~ Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Ode

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Susan
Bibliomaniac
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby Susan » Fri August 10th, 2012, 4:54 pm

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (Book 2)

I'm going to start with the ending...as in "A Discovery of Witches," I appreciate that there is an ending. Yes, conflicts are not resolved, and the plot of the trilogy needs to continue, but the characters are in a place where this reader felt a breather could be taken. Some readers noted that there were too many historical details. Not for me; I like historical details and when the characters were in 1590 London, I felt I was there with them. I like books with an alternative world, especially when it co-exists with our world. I enjoyed the characters that were actually real people (and there were lots of them) and did some research on the ones I was not familiar with. I'm going to a Renaissance Fair tomorrow and Christopher Marlowe will be one of the characters. I'll be thinking about him a little differently. ;-) For those who read this book, you might find it interesting that Matthew Roydon was a real person.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Roydon
~Susan~
~Unofficial Royalty~
Royal news updated daily, information and discussion about royalty past and present
http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/

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EC2
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Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Fri August 10th, 2012, 11:56 pm

I still have the first one to finish and have reached the stage of 'Will it ever end?' I seem to have been on 90 something per cent for ever on my Kindle. It's been a mixed bag for me. Loved the opening. Nearly gave up in the middle. Came back strongly in the last part, but now it's dragging again, but I admit that might be down to me not having a lot of time at the moment and having to multi-task. I think it interesting how much cold, controlling men are featuring in literature at the moment and being portrayed as heroes. Matthew in this book, Christian Grey in Fifty Shades...
I will probably read the next one, but after a break.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com


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