Title: A Discovery of Witches
Series: All Souls trilogy #1
Author: Deborah Harkness
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
ISBN: 9781449823863 (audiobook), 9780670022410 (hardcover)
Pages: 579 pages
CDs/Discs: 20 CDs, 24 hours
Publisher/Date: Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., c2011.
“What is happening to me?” Every day I ran and rowed and did yoga, and my body did what I told it to. Now it was doing unimaginable things. I looked down to make sure my hands weren’t sparkling with electricity and my feet weren’t still being buffeted by winds. […]
“But I didn’t ask for it. Do these things just happen to witches–electrical fires and winds they didn’t summon?” I pushed the hair out of my eyes and swayed, exhausted. Too much had happened in the past twenty-four hours. (210-211)
Diana Bishop, a professor visiting and conducting research at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, requests a manuscript called Ashmole 782, skims the contents, and then sends it back into the storage. But Diana, who never invested in studying the witchcraft that has flowed through her family’s blood for generations is quickly informed that Ashmole 782 contains secrets that other witches, vampires, and even daemons have been searching for over a century to find. Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist vampire also residing at Oxford, takes a special interest in protecting Diana as her dormant powers burst forth and refuse to be ignored. Although their growing relationship and interest in each other has long been deemed taboo, historical documents may be linking both of them to the manuscript. Loyalties are questioned and alliances are formed as it becomes a race against time to determine the manuscript’s origins and purpose and who should ultimately gain ownership.
A friend of mine has been trying to get me to read this for years. She loves the series, raves about the series, and thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread. And I’ve seen it mentioned in blogs and journals with increasing regularity as the series continued to be published and it became a New York Times bestseller. But I disappointingly can not join her on her fan-wagon, and I’m apparently not the only one. Jessica Day George reviewed on Goodreads that she was torn as to whether or not to read the second one, and I think she described it really well, so I’m going to direct you to her review and I’ll wait for you to come back.
Good, because I totally agree with everything she said. Two hundred pages into the book, Diana and Matthew have eaten dinner together, gone to a yoga class together, studied old manuscripts together, and discussed creatures together. Oh, and everyone, not just the vampires, have incredible noses and knowledge of scents. They smell cloves, cinnamon, flowers, carnations, nuts, and other ingredients that I had to Google to figure out what they were talking about (malmsey? say what? Oh it’s a grape, thank you Wikipedia). Something FINALLY happens that forces both of them into hiding, where it takes another 150 pages of talking and multiple info dumps of relevant back story and plot points before climatic event number two happens, lasting only 40 pages before they go into hiding again and talk some more.
Matthew constantly withholding information from Diana and everybody else, even after being asked point-blank. I was so tired of Diana’s naivety, which seemed more and more unrealistic as the story continued and we learned more about her past and her family history. Is it any wonder Diana is so naive when her own family cuts her out of teachable moments and neglects to give her relevant information? Matthew is cold, distant, removed, and overprotective to the extreme. I found myself comparing this book to a Twilight for grown-ups, with a moody, brooding, know-it all vampire “protecting” a naive woman who is being chased by other mythical/fantastical creatures while she may or may not have special powers that she doesn’t know how to use, can’t be taught, and is not bothered by the overbearing nature of her boyfriend.
The one thing that saved this overly long, excessively descriptive, audiobook was Jennifer Ikeda’s narration. She brings life to the characters, especially all the accents and inflections that the secondary characters require.