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Discovery of Witches (Harkness)

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1)
Deborah Harkness, 2011
Penguin Group USA
592 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780143119685

Summary 
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. (From the publisher.)

The second book in the All Souls Trilogy is Shadow of Night, issued in 2012.



Author Bio 
Birth—N/A
Raised—outside of Philadelphia, PA, USA
Education—B.A., Mount Holyoke College; M.A.,
   Northwestern University; Ph.D., University of
   California-Davis
Currently—lives in southern California

Deborah Harkness is a professor of history at the University of Southern California. She has received Fullbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships, and her most recent scholarly work is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. She also writes an award-winning wine blog, Good Wine Under $20.  (From the publisher.)

More
In her words

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and have lived in western Massachusetts, the Chicago area, Northern California, upstate New York, and Southern California. In other words, I’ve lived in three out of five time zones in the US! I’ve also lived in the United Kingdom in the cities of Oxford and London.

For the past twenty-eight years I’ve been a student and scholar of history, and received degrees from Mount Holyoke College, Northwestern University, and the University of California at Davis. During that time I researched the history of magic and science in Europe, especially during the period from 1500 to 1700.

The libraries I’ve worked in include Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the All Souls College Library at Oxford, the British Library, London’s Guildhall Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Newberry Library—proving that I know my way around a card catalogue or the computerized equivalent. These experiences have given me a deep and abiding love of libraries and a deep respect for librarians. Currently, I teach European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

My previous books include two works of non-fiction: John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1999) and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (Yale University Press, 2007). It has been my privilege to receive fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Humanities Center. And I was honored to receive accolades for my historical work from the History of Science Society, the North American Conference on British Studies, and the Longman’s/History Today Prize Committee.

In 2006, I took up my keyboard and entered the world of blogging and Twitter. My wine blog, Good Wine Under $20, is an online record of my search for the best, most affordable wines. These efforts have been applauded by the American Wine Blog Awards, Saveur.com, Wine & Spirits magazine, and Food & Wine magazine. My wine writing has also appeared on the website Serious Eats and in Wine & Spirits magazine. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews 
"Write what you know," debut novelists are told, and Professor Deborah Harkness has accordingly set hers in the world of academia.... A bubbling cauldron of illicit desire...all the ingredients for an assured saga that blends romance with fantasy.
Daily Mail  (UK)


An inventive addition to the supernatural craze.... Historian Harkness's racy paranormal romance has exciting amounts of spells, kisses and battles, and is recounted with enchanting, page-turning panache.
Marie Claire


In Harkness's lively debut, witches, vampires, and demons outnumber humans at Oxford's Bodleian Library, where witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her. Against all occult social propriety, Bishop turns for protection to tall, dark, bloodsucking man-about-town Clairmont. Their research raises questions of evolution and extinction among the living dead, and their romance awakens centuries-old enmities. Harkness imagines a crowded universe where normal and paranormal creatures observe a tenuous peace. "Magic is desire made real," Bishop says after both her desire and magical prowess exceed her expectations. Harkness brings this world to vibrant life and makes the most of the growing popularity of gothic adventure with an ending that keeps the Old Lodge door wide open.
Publishers Weekly


Diana Bishop is a history scholar—and a witch in denial of her powers. Researching the early beginnings of scientific study in Oxford's Bodleian Library, she unwittingly discovers an ancient tome of alchemy and finds herself attracting a great deal of unwanted attention from a startling array of deamons, witches, and other supernatural beings. Among them is the brilliant (and attractive) vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Set in our contemporary world with a magical twist, this sparkling debut by a history professor features a large cast of fascinating characters, and readers will find themselves invested in Diana's success at unlocking the secrets of the manuscript. Although not a nail-biting cliff-hanger, the finale skillfully provides a sense of completion while leaving doors open for the possibility of wonderful sequel adventures. This reviewer, for one, hopes they come soon! Verdict: Destined to be popular with fantasy and paranormal aficionados, this enchanting novel is an essential purchase. Harkness is an author to watch. —Crystal Renfro, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta
Library Journal


(Starred review.) All [the] characters are fully fleshed and unique, which, when combined with the complex and engaging plot, results in one of the better fantasy debuts in recent months. —Jessica Moyer
Booklist


Harry Potter meets Lestat de Lioncourt. Throw in a time machine, and you've got just about everything you need for a full-kit fantasy. The protagonist is a witch. Her beau is a vampire. If you accept the argument that we've seen entirely too many of both kinds of characters in contemporary fiction, then you're not alone. Yet, though Harkness seems to be arriving very late to a party that one hopes will soon break up, her debut novel has its merits; she writes well, for one thing, and, as a historian at the University of Southern California, she has a scholarly bent that plays out effectively here. Indeed, her tale opens in a library—and not just any library, but the Bodleian at Oxford, pride of England and the world. Diana Bishop is both tenured scholar and witch, and when her book-fetcher hauls up a medieval treatise on alchemy with "a faint, iridescent shimmer that seemed to be escaping from between the pages," she knows what to do with it. Unfortunately, the library is crammed with other witches, some of malevolent intent, and Diana soon finds that books can be dangerous propositions. She's a bit of a geek, and not shy of bragging, either, as when she trumpets the fact that she has "a prodigious, photographic memory" and could read and write before any of the other children of the coven could. Yet she blossoms, as befits a bodice-ripper no matter how learned, once neckbiter and renowned geneticist Matthew Clairmont enters the scene. He's a smoothy, that one, "used to being the only active participant in a conversation," smart and goal-oriented, and a valuable ally in the great mantomachy that follows—and besides, he's a pretty good kisser, too. "It's a vampire thing," he modestly avers. Entertaining, though not in the league of J.K. Rowling—or even Anne Rice. But please, people: no more vamps and wizards, OK?
Kirkus Reviews



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?
(Quesions issued by publisher.)

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