An epic, richly inventive, historically sweeping, magical romance.
When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she's kept at bay for years: one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons, and long-lived vampires.
Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing.
As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels....
©2011 Deborah Harkness (P)2011 Deborah Harkness
"Intelligent and off-the-wall, it will be irresistible to Twilight fans." (The Sunday Times)
"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)
"A romp through magical academia." (Guardian)
I really loved this book and cant wait for the authur to produce a sequel. It was pure fantasy and escapism. The narrator is also very good, it was most enjoyable and got me through hours of sewing in a world of my own.
What strikes me most about this novel is its intelligence. The author pays her readers the compliment of assuming they are intelligent and will keep up. It's packed with references to history, mythology, genetics and the human genome project, philosophy, Yoga and Eastern spiritualism, traditional values vs feminism, natural history...the discussion of how alchemical principles might have inspired Darwin's theory of evolution is simply brilliant. And on top of that, it has an engaging plot, rounded characters, an original take on the genre and a satisfying ending that nonetheless leaves me eager for the sequel.
The central romance between Diana Bishop, a witch, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, develops slowly. These characters aren't teenagers and their relationship is complex and convincing: no love-at-first-sight or adolescent babblings about unconditional love. They aren't soulmates; in fact they have some serious personality conflicts that aren't fully resolved by the end. Diana's independence doesn't sit well with Matthew's old-fashioned values and protective nature. But they work these things out.
Their relationship plays out against a backdrop of a supernatural world that lives within our own. The 'creatures' do their best to keep their existence a secret from humans but don't always seem to succeed.
If the novel has a fault, it's a bit heavy on the exposition, sometimes at the expense of moving the plot onward. Occasionally, significant events are kind of rushed through, with minimal detail, which when it's an audiobook means if your attention wanders, you can miss important information. Also, the narrator really should have learned how to pronouce the names of the Oxford colleges; the mispronunciation is really irritating but that's only in the first act.
I really enjoyed this novel and recommend it to any reader who is, like me, tired of the Twilight-clones. This has superficial similarities to Twilight, but it's a far superior work.
I am unashamedly a Twighlight fan. This book is not Twilight....it's more grown up, possibly a little darker. Still, I found it equally enjoyable on the whole fantasy/vampire/witches side of things, and am eagerly anticipating the next book in the series....
The narrator's accent takes some getting used to - but it doesn't distract from the story too much.
Despite the surfeit of books on witches and vampires currently around I found this one totally addictive. The dog was walked rather more frequently than usual when I was listening to this. Based, to start with, in my home city of Oxford it moved on to France and then the USA. A witch who doesn't want to be a witch falling in love with a vampire who is of course wonderfully handsome and clever and rich. I found it amazingly believable and my only complaint was the US pronounciation of 'herbs' as 'erbs' which irritated me - but that's my only complaint! Brilliant book!
The book starts of charmingly but the plot gets to difficult and the author has nowhere to go but to have an unsatisfactory open ending. Is she planning a second book to finish the story?
Well read by Jennifer Ikeda
Run-of-the-mill. More explicit than Twilight (these are consenting adults after all) yet less offensive than some people might find Ann Rice.
Plot is drawn-out and prose is rather hard to stomach in places. The characters are shallow and one-dimensional. The author clearly sees no value in feminist thought or doesn't understand it, as the main female character is rapidly infantelised and the main male character is given the psychological depth of a dog. The setting keeps the reader in an aristocrat bubble, further reducing this novel to being a slightly wet, albeit elaborate, teenage daydream.
That said, I enjoyed the first third, which is interesting enough and even witty in places, although the latter may well be due to Jennifer Ikeda endearing way of performing accents.
Like a lot of paranormal romance, this isn't very well written. There are some interesting premises but also some huge flaws. We are told the main character, Dianna, is beautiful, ridiculously young, has a soaring IQ and a PhD in History from Yale but does inexplicably moronic thing after moronic thing to save the author's ass from some very dodgy plotting. The main love interest is - well, what you'd expect for this sort of a thing - dark, tall, handsome and shallowly drawn. Very much like Twilight, we are left to puzzle why a 1,500 year-old vampire would be remotely interested in the MC. In this case, the explanation is a combo of genetics and fate. It sure isn't her uncanny analytical skills.
However, considering the genre, none of these things would cause me to give the book such a low rating.
What did is was that, after suffering through 23 hours of an unnecessarily convoluted set of sub-plots that never resolve, the listener is left completely in the lurch. I'm not joking. 23 hours of NOTHING HAS HAPPENED YET.
Obviously Ms Harkness is planning on a series. After suffering through some truly nauseating purple prose (no one can actually just walk anywhere, they have to scuttle, scamper or prowl), the lack of anything remotely resembling even partial resolution was truly infuriating. It's a real breach of trust between writer and reader.
I won't be stupid enough to spend my money or time on any sequel. If the author didn't know better, the editor or the publisher should have.
Why is it always the same! This book starts out with a (fairly) strong willed and intelligent lead female. The story however quikly degenerates into scene after scene of bad choices resulting in predictable rescues.
The problem with this book, when everything is stripped away, is two dimensional characters and a confused plot. You cannot have a woman in your lead who is strong willed and intelligent making such innane comments and choices. Aside from a plot line that never irons itself out, there are characters who seem to act without any real in-depth motivation. This book lost me when I began tutting at the lead characters comments and feeling more and more annoyed with them. You cannot empathise with a character that unfortunately leaves you frustrated 90% of the time.
The premise shows some foresight and originality, but it is poorly executed with its mind set on a sequal rather than making it a complete piece of fiction in its own right. No one expects this to be Shakespeare, but within its genere it really only ever manages to stay in its genre and does nothing original or new. In the end it is a story that only ever really ends up being generic. Such a shame
I don't think people are giving this enough credit.
Contrary to other reviews, I didn't think the plot was slow to develop at all, the story gripped me from the very first pages. Diana, the main character is smart and sensible. Her thoughts and actions are very well explained, which makes her a very believable character. Her romance with the vampire is believable and follows many conventional patterns that normal humans go through which makes us able to relate to the relationship.
While the plot follows the out of the frying pan into the fire pattern, the problems slowly resolve themselves, as is life. We don't solve one problem before the next disaster strikes. While there is no final resolution in the book it is a good opener for the series. We know who all the key players are, we have motivations for most of their actions and we can get a clue at where the series is leading. The book stops at an ideal place to keep the reader interested, even though no firm resolution has been reached in this book. Information slowly presents itself throughout the novel in a believable manner.
The author did a fantastic job of presenting subjects such as alchemy, genetics in a believable manner and tied them into the book brilliantly. If you like a more academic twist to your fantasy books, this is the perfect book for you!
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