Reader's Comments
A Discovery of Witches By Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches

By Deborah Harkness

PBR Book Review:

Thereís just something about witches and vampires that intrigues me. So when I read that ďA Discovery of WitchesĒ was for adults - I couldnít resist. The two main characters are Diana, a scholarly witch who refuses to use her power, which is considerable as she is descended from a powerful family of witches and Matthew, a 1500 year old vampire who studies science and is sophisticated, refined and very worldly. On one level this is a forbidden love story, which is always tantalizing. In this scenario, however the stakes are ratcheted up because the consequences for disobeying are severe and permanent. The book really is much more than this however; in fact, itís quite complex and layered. Aside from the witches and vampires, the book overflows with science, mythology, history, and marvelous descriptions and historical details of the Bodleian Library, Oxford and Matthewís castle in France. The authorís imagination of what witches and vampires look and act like is superb, you feel as if they could be your neighbor or co-worker. She also gives us a fascinating look at the habits of vampires; how they feed and interact with their own and outsiders. Although I found Matthews protectiveness towards Diana frustrating at times, the main problem I had with this book is the pacing. The plot moved very slowly at times with nothing happening but descriptions and dialog and the ending left many unresolved issues; perhaps because this is the first book in a trilogy. In summary this is a captivating tale for those who like the paranormal world and perhaps a nice introduction to the mystical for those who have never tried this genre. At 579 pages, it a long book, but I was still sad to see it end. I look forward to the second book in the trilogy.

Book Club Talking Points:

This is an intelligent book and although itís about witches and vampires, itís also about balancing the power in a relationship of equals and recognizing and channeling your own power. The author is a history professor at Southern California University and has a popular wine blog. So, itís no surprise that the book is well researched and includes references to historical manuscripts and vintage wines. Ashmole 782, a lost manuscript that plays a role in the book is in fact a real manuscript which is missing. Itís also about accepting the consequences of oneís actions and honoring differences.

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*Other Books by Same Author: Debut novel for this author Ē

*Discussion Questions

1. Diana's mother says that fear is "the strongest force on earth" (p.5). What does she mean? Do you agree?

2. Early in the novel, Harkness describes the typical personalities and physical traits of daemons, witches, and vampires. If you could be any one of these beings, which would you choose and why?

3. Who is the Congregation? Is it a force for good or a force for evil?

4. What happened to Diana's parents? What were they trying to hide?

5. Diana studies alchemy, which she defines as a type of "science with magic" (p. 73) used to explore and understand unexplained phenomena. Do you use astrology, fortune-telling, or ESP to provide a deeper understanding of events in your own life?

6. Why is Diana and Matthew's love forbidden? Have you ever loved someone whom your family or friends thought was inappropriate? How did their reaction influence your feelings?

7. Most of the book is told from Diana's perspective, yet a few chapters are written in the third person. Why? What feature or purpose unites those chapters?

8. Diana and Matthew travel back to the sixteenth century. If you had the power to time walk, as she does, what period in history would you visit?

9. In chapter 31, Diana remembers the bedtime story her mother told her as a child. In what ways does that story foreshadow the events of Diana's life?

10. Harkness presents the use of witchcraft not only as an otherworldly ability but also as a part of everyday life; for example, Diana uses a spell to fix her washing machine. Which example of the novel's blending of the magical with the mundane did you find most entertaining or creative? If you could use magic in your daily life, what would you use it for?

11. Look at the last page of the book. What is the significance of the blood and mercury? What is the reason behind the sense of relief felt in the house? What does the last sentence of the book mean?

Book Summary
Viking Adult -February 8, 2011 - Fiction - 592 pages
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.
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