Customer Review

95 of 111 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good, 1 Feb. 2011
This review is from: A Discovery of Witches: (All Souls 1) (Hardcover)
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I have to admit that this book surprised me. I selected it because of the Oxford connection - it is always interesting to see how authors interpret the place where I live. It was an additional surprise to see that the central character had rooms in my old college (the ironically named New College - founded in 1379!)

I haven't attempted to read a vampire-related tale since I tried the Lestat novels of Anne Rice - and I found this a much more enjoyable piece of writing. There is a flow to the narrative which does prove engaging from the very first page. Given that it is not a short book, finding a way to keep the reader hooked throghout is quite an achievement for a debut novelist.

Dianna is a strong central figure - neatly drawn and not at all weak and compliant as she could easily have been made. She is well matched by the suave Matthew. There is an instant spark to their relationship - which is well sustained and not in a predictable way.

As is essential with novels in this particular genre, Harkness is very precise about the way she creates a world where vampires, witches and daemons are able to exist seemlessly with mere mortals - everything is remarkably plausible and coherent.

After all this praise, why not the full five stars? It comes down to the Oxford setting. It is probably my own detailed knowledge of the city that makes all the excessive detail given over to evoking the city feel more like a travel guide than something more real. There are a few factual slips that slightly undermine the setting. It is clear that the author does know Oxford but not, perhaps, as well as she might think. A minor flaw - but given the way Oxford is such a popular setting for a wide range of books, it is one that would have benefitted from the attentions of an editor who could have help Harkenss refine this element slightly. Readers who are not as closely connected to the city will probably not notice any of this!

I must admit that I would be tempted to read any further books that follow from this strong debut.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Feb 2011 20:41:05 GMT
As someone who doesn't know Oxford at all, I cannot comment on any errors. However, I enjoyed the detail in describing the settings. I felt that the detail was tied to the fact that Diana and Matthew's senses are more sensitive than ours and would take in details to excess! I too would read more from Deborah Harkness. Hope there is a sequel to this story in the pipeline.

Posted on 27 Aug 2012 13:35:04 BDT
I know Oxford too but inaccuracies in locations didn't concern me - I simply couldn't put the book down!! (Housework went undone, the dog pined for a walk, letters unwritten etc., I don't normally like anything to do with vampires but I loved the whole narrative, and can't wait until I can have the next book in the trilogy! It gets five stars from me!
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Simon Tavener
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