Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Published by Penguin Audio, Viking Penguin on February 8, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Length: 24 hours 2 minutes
I meant to pick up A Discovery of Witches a while ago, but it never happened. Then, in May we decided it would be our JULY book club read. Plenty of time to read it – so what did I do? I started it the weekend before, meaning I had roughly 3 days to read a 24 hour audio book. Generally speaking, that would mean that there was no way in HELL I was going to get that book finished in time. Guess what? I finished it with a day to spare! Yeah, I gobbled up A Discovery of Witches. It sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go!
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.
So here’s the thing – I’m EXACTLY the sort of person that A Discovery of Witches is written for. At book club I found out that quite a few people found the first bit really slow. And after hearing their input, I can see why. For me, it was never slow because the main character is a historian. And not just any historian, but a historian of alchemy. And Diana is an Early Modern Historian – but she delves into the Middle Ages a bit. Now, those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while *might* remember that I went to grad school for history. You might even recall that I’m a medieval historian. What you likely DON’T know is that I’m a LATE medieval historian, who pushes into the Early Modern period frequently. You also probably don’t know that one of my exam fields is the History of Medicine… which just so happens to include – yep, you guessed it: Alchemy!
Okay – so point is – I’m probably the LEAST reliable source on whether this early bit dragged or not, because for me it was like inserting myself into all the good parts of grad school (and if you read this post you know grad school has not been a positive experience for me). It kinda reminded me what I love about history. And all the texts and people she talked about, like William Harvey and Vesalius… I’m initmately acquaninted with. Many of the manuscripts she talks about I’ve read and even handled. So it so sucked me in, because understanding and feeling close to Diana was oh so easy. And the historical references in A Dicovery of Witches were so rich and so on point.
So how about the stuff that has nothing to do with my history background? Well for me it was just this really great love story, set in my favorite kind of world – a complex magical one. I just love the world Harkness created and the way she reinvented Demons, gave witches some interesting twists, and kind of stuck to what we expect from vampires. It was an interesting, unique blend and I really enjoyed it.
Those who really like A Discovery of Witches and don’t like Twilight will probably completely disagree with me on this next point – but in my opinion, the love story had something of Twilight in it. I personally really enjoyed Twilight though, despite KNOWING it’s not at all great literature. Here’s an essential point though: As I was reading I found myself wondering if Stephanie Meyer might have read this and used it as inspiration. And then I found out that A Discovery of Witches wasn’t published until 2011 – AFTER Twilight. I never imagined the reverse, because while Twilight was a fun read – A Discovery of Witches is so complex and rich. A Discovery of Witches far surpasses Twilight, despite sharing similiarities! But you know that love story that kinda sucked you in when you first read Twilight? Matthew and Diana have a bit of that AND MORE.
Pacing wise, I felt it was a really steady pace and then the last 25% was non-stop. So much of what I’d like to talk about happens in that last 25% so just go ahead and read it, ok? I can’t recommend the audio enough. Jennifer Ikeda did a FANTASTIC job. This is a LONG book with LOTS of voices and accents and she nailed them! I listened at 1.8 speed and that was never a problem, which says a lot about a narrator IMO. Her voices for men and women were varied and strong. And I was really impressed when the story would indicate that Matthew’s accent changed and Jennifer’s narration did just that, while still maintaining that quality that made him Matthew. Definitely one to listen to.
I think I’ve praised A Discovery of Witches enough… so I’ll end with: