A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah HarknessA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: All Souls #1
Published by Penguin Audio on 2/8/11
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Book: B+
Narration: A

A decision tree to help you decide if you should listen to the audiobook of A Discovery of Witches, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda (yes, there is an actual review after the flowchart):


This audiobook had excellent narration and pacing that, unless you like character-driven novels, might drive you crazy. I, however, loved it. I’ve read comparisons of other books with the Twilight novels and have never seen it as anything other than a marketing ploy but really, if the Twilight series married Gabaldon’s Outlander series and had a literary child this would be it.

Diana Bishop is a professor of history at Yale who has turned her back on the power her abilities as a witch grant her in order to focus on academics. While researching at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Diana discovers an enchanted alchemical manuscript that has been long hidden. The “creatures” that populate the world of this novel (witches, vampires, and daemons) all want the manuscript and they need Diana to get it. Enter Matthew Clairmont, a 1600 year-old vampire and Oxford professor whose quest for the manuscript quickly turns into a more personal interest in Diana. The battle to obtain the manuscript carries the pair from England to France, America, and … well, you’ll have to listen to the book to find out the last location.

The author clearly loves her area of academic study and included info from it in the book in such a way as to completely intrigue me about the history of science and the allegorical imagery to be found in alchemical manuscripts. I rarely regret not pursuing post-graduate studies but this book reminded me of the joy found in academics. There was a well-delivered (although not often exciting) plot progression that appealed to my logical side which probably explains the flowchart. The world-building feels very realistic and rational (if I can say that about a fiction book). I did struggle with the heroine’s passive nature for much of the book and I was frustrated with the hero’s paternalistic actions but was still captivated by the book and enjoyed the growing romance. The secondary characters were well developed and wove their way through the plot rather than popping up as throw-away characters. I ended up listening to this book a second time and only then realized there was a lot of subtle characterization that my conscious mind ignored the first time around. The ending, while not a cliff-hanger exactly, opened a whole new setting for the next book in the series and I look forward to it.

I found Jennifer Ikeda’s narration to be perfect. My previous experience with her work was a YA novel set in Canada so I was unprepared for the level of skill she displayed in managing the multitude of accents that permeate the story. Silly me. She seamlessly switches between multiple English dialects, Scottish, French, Australian, and American and while I am far from an expert on accents, they all sounded very natural and accurate to me. She employed a smooth and almost conversational delivery for the narrative. Usually I would anticipate that style would make a long story seem even longer but the vocal inflections more than held my interest and at the half-way point in the book I was wondering where the time went. The dialogue was voiced in a manner that easily allowed me to immerse myself in the characterizations and get swept away in the story.

An excellent audiobook for the romance reader who likes character-driven stories and with minimal bedroom time, even non-romance readers will find a lot to enjoy.

Comments

  1. Love the review… especially your decision tree!

  2. Your decision tree is spot on. I tried listening to this one when it came out, but it drags so much. Now I’m listening to it on fastforward in an effort to get to the good parts already. Paternalistic “heros” and wishy-washy women are not for me. Thanks for the great review.

    • I completely understand why someone would find it hard to get into this one. That being said, I actually rather enjoyed the pacing; that type of in-depth character study worked well for me. I’m not sure FF listening will help you with this one as there really is such a gradual build. I was still grousing about Matthew’s character until almost the end.

      I did find it interesting to realize that the whole story actually takes place within a span of 26 days or so and my perspective on the book altered slightly when I came across an interview with the author where she said “And, as a teacher, I am fascinated with the way women struggle with their own power. I see it in my classroom all the time…”

      • That’s an interesting comment from author. It puts the book in a new light. Diana spends all of her time denying and throwing her power away while the other characters keep saying “I don’t know why she does that.” Thanks!

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