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2nd February
2011
written by Steph
Tony and I both have new reviews up at BookPage that y'all simply must take a gander at!

Regular readers at S&TI! know that my relationship with witches in books is generally circumscribed to the Harry Potter series, so you may be surprised to hear that I recently fell in love with an epic novel that features witches, daemons, and yes, those pesky vampires! For the February issue of BookPage, I selected Deborah Harkness' debut fiction novel, A Discovery of Witches, and I am SO glad I did. Featuring a feisty and intelligent heroine (who just happens to be an academic scholar!), this novel combines fantastical elements with everything I love in my books: academia, libraries, books, science, and a wonderful love story to boot. You know that I tend to shy away from books that are longer than 400 pages, but this book came in at almost 700 pages, and I read it in something like three days and was so despondent when it was over. It is so incredibly rich and absorbing, that even if the fantastical isn't normally your thing, you owe it to yourself to read this book. I actually had the chance to talk to Deborah Harkness about the book (and bonus: she is an absolute delight!) and she mentioned that she loves big chunky books, and one of her favorite novels is Possession by A.S. Byatt, which I think is actually quite evident in this novel. All to say that if you're wary, don't be! Harkness presents the supernatural in a way you've never before experienced it, and it is legitimately thrilling. I loved this book so much! To read more about the premise and why this book is so kick-ass, read my full review here. (P.S. I gushed about this book so effusively that it wound up being BookPage's pick of the month!)

Tony wrote a web exclusive on another debut novel that's getting an awful lot of buzz, that being The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Bruno is a chimpanzee who examines exactly what it means to be human. I know some people are not keen on animal narrators (I admit, I initially thought the idea was a bit gimicky), but by all accounts this is a really unique and powerful book that raises a lot of interesting questions in a surprisingly serious way. I haven't yet read Bruno, but I kept our ARC of it because I know I will want to experience this brave and challenging novel for myself. To read the thoughts of someone who actually did read the book, you can read Tony's review here! All in all, two phenominal books that are worth splurging on, if I do say so myself! Do either of these titles appeal to you? Any new releases coming out this month that you're particularly looking forward to?

13 Comments

  1. You make A Discovery of Witches sounds great, and it’s not a book I would have considered just by the title and your initial description. It it definitely going on my library hold list. I’m trying to read more big books this year, so this would fit that ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. 02/02/2011

    Wow, look at your enthusiasm! I’ve added it to my wishlist, of course ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I have an ARC of Witches, but it doesn’t sound like my sort of thing. I was very wary of it so your gushing is making me rethink my preconceptions. I think I’ll have to crack it open sometime soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 02/02/2011

    It’s funny: I’m much more of a reader of this kind of novel than you, yet I passed the chance to review A Discovery of Witches because it sounded like more of the same. So much for avoiding preconceptions ๐Ÿ˜› I’ll see if I can get it from the library now.

  5. 02/02/2011

    Yeah, what Ana said, except I didn’t actually pass up an opportunity to review it (unless the ad in Shelf Awareness that I noticed and decided to ignore involved a review copy offer). Honestly, because of the subject matter I sort of assumed it was YA, which I’m not automatically against, but I usually don’t read until I’ve seen reviews by people whose taste in YA I trust. But now that I’ve seen your review, I’ll definitely look into this a little further. Sounds like it could be absolutely my kind of book.

  6. 02/02/2011

    I’m with Nymeth on this one- definitely didn’t think this book would stand out to me, but I’m glad to hear it was so good!

    On a (very tenuously) related note, I love when people spell the word “daemon” instead of “demon.” Not sure why, but it makes me smile.

  7. 02/03/2011

    @ Kim: Yes, the title is not something that would normally draw me in, but when I read the back cover and realized it was all about an enchanted manuscript and the opening scene is in the Bodleian library at Oxford I knew I had to read more! And then I just couldn’t stop… ๐Ÿ˜€
     
    @ Alex: I think you’d really love this book! It was SO good.
     
    @ Jackie: I know you don’t tend to read a lot of Fantasy, but there are so many other elements that are wonderful in this book, and the way Harkness approaches the supernatural (from a scientific perspective) it all seems oddly normal… It’s definitely one of those epic sagas that will sweep you away.
     
    @ Nymeth: Yes, this is probably more you kind of book, so you’d be in a better place to judge its uniqueness I’m sure but I’m positive you’ve never read anything like it before. Harkness is such an intelligent author that I think you’ll be really pleased by her fresh takes on creatures who have been written about ad nauseam.
     
    @ Teresa: This is definitely not a YA novel. I mean, I’m sure teens could read it and enjoy it, but it’s definitely meant for adult readers… The characters are all adults and the scope of the story is definitely more than just “that vampire is dreamy!” There are so many elements in this book that I think you would actually love, so I hope you do try it.
     
    @ Aarti: It was soooo good! One of the most squeee-worthy books I’ve read in a looong time!
    And you’ll be happy to hear that Harkness pronounces it “day-mon” like she spells it!
     
    @ zibilee: Oh you must read Witches! You will love it! It’s so completely engrossing you will be happy you snagged a copy of it!
     
    @ Bina: Yes, Diana Bishop is so wonderful because even though she is flawed, she is not a simpering moron, but is instead intelligent and strong. Unsurprisingly, one of the inspirations for her character was Diana, Goddess of the Hunt!

  8. 02/03/2011

    I scored copies of both of these books at SIBA, but haven’t yet read them. I had not expected A Discovery of Witches to be so absorbing, but now I am really excited about trying it. On the other hand, there was a LOT of buzz about the Bruno Littlemore book, and the author was actually one of the guest of honor at the first evening meal. I am actually looking forward to both, and I will be going to check out your thoughts!

  9. 02/03/2011

    You had me with academic kick-ass heroine! I probably wouldn’t pick this book up if I’d seen it at the store, si I’m glad you gushed about it ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. 02/09/2011

    Ooh, I took this on holiday with me and really enjoyed it. I really couldn’t resist the whole witch/history of science angle!

  11. 02/10/2011

    @ sakura: Generally I don’t go for the supernatural in my fiction, but like Diana and Ashmole 782, I couldn’t resist this book. I’m so glad I gave it a chance because I loved it. Based on the sales, we aren’t the only ones! ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. 02/23/2011

    ….aaaannnd now I want to read A Discovery of Witches even more.

  13. 02/25/2011

    @ Wallace: Don’t wait! Just do it! It’s so good!

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