Archive for the ‘Contemporary Fantasy’ Category

Description From Goodreads:
Hidden within Human society is an entrancing race of beings who look just like us. They are the Akataromai. Originating on Earth, they conceal themselves, blending within the Human population. Though they appear to be Human, mature Akataromai live for centuries and feed upon negative Human emotions. Angelina Quorra is an Akataromai, a Human-looking girl who might never die. But Angelina is unique among her people, absorbing pain as well as emotion and giving anyone who feeds her overwhelming pleasure. This is her story, told by the men who adore her. Her talent is called The Lustre, bringing her great fame, and great trouble.

THE LUSTRE, by Kate Policani
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: ** 2 Stars
Kate Policani delivers an interesting twist on the “vampire”, but fails to deliver an interesting story. Told entirely from an external point of view, in passive voice, the characters and plot never resonated with me. I wanted to hear from Angelina, the actual protagonist, not just the secondary characters. The method of delivery detracted from the story itself, to the point that there almost wasn’t a story. It was like being in a conversation where the subject is sitting right next to you, and everyone is talking about her, around her, and over her, but no one is talking to her. Awkward.

Characters: ** 2 Stars
Angelina has the Lustre, an ability to not only take away negative human emotions, but to take away physical pain and replace it with orgasmic pleasure. Interesting to say the least. Yet somehow Angelina is vacant, almost empty of emotion herself. She just sails along, not really taking an active part in her own life. Instead, the men in her life are the active participants, likely due to the fact that they’re the ones telling her story, and they make her out to be a perfect angel, innocent and pure…boring.

Her husband, Luciano, seems nice enough, adopting her as his ward when she’s a preteen, and making sure that she doesn’t feel obligated to marry him when she comes of age (though that was the intention all along). However he’s as naive as a teenager despite being more than a hundred years old.

The villain, Jacque Trace, is greedy and selfish, but hardly evil. His actions are despicable, but he also tries to make Angelina happy, in his selfish way. I didn’t like the man, but neither did I hate him, and he wasn’t scary, malicious, or dangerous enough to engage me emotionally. Overall, he was…meh.

Plot: ** 2 Stars
The plot is unfortunately as vacant as Angelina herself. It was just one event after another, without a story arc that slowly builds to an exciting climax and then resolves to satisfying conclusion. There were a few exciting events, such as a killing and a kidnapping, but they fell flat because they were told in a passive voice.

Setting: ** 2 Stars
Like everything else, I wanted more from the setting. I needed a year or an era, a full five-sense description, just something more.

Romance: * 1 Stars
A twelve year old girl is taken from her parents to be a ward of a much older man, with the expectation that when she’s of age, she will marry him. While the author tried to make the match seem like love, it never felt right to me. There were verbal declarations of love, and Luciano was good to Angelina, but I never felt the fire, and with the initial set-up of their relationship, it always felt too easy, and a little bit wrong.

Genre – Contemporary Fantasy or Paranormal Romance: * 1 Stars
I’m actually not really sure how to classify The Lustre. It’s not traditional paranormal romance by any means, but there is romance, and it’s in a contemporary setting. The concept of the Akataromai was interesting and unique, but the story was bland, like saltine crackers. I want more action, more romance, more passion, and more pain in my fantasy.

Note: This review was requested by the author. The only compensation received was a free copy of the book.


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Description From Goodreads:

There can only be one allegiance.
It’s her time to choose.

Some humans can see the fae. McKenzie Lewis can track them, reading the shadows they leave behind. But some shadows lead to danger. Others lead to lies.

A Houston college student trying to finish her degree, McKenzie has been working for the fae king for years, tracking vicious rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn’t her only secret. For just as long, she’s been in love with Kyol, the king’s sword-master—and relationships between humans and fae are forbidden.

But any hope for a normal life is shattered when she’s captured by Aren, the fierce and uncompromising rebel leader. He teaches her the forbidden fae language and tells her dark truths about the Court, all to persuade her to turn against the king. Time is running out, and as the fight starts to claim human lives, McKenzie has no choice but to decide once and for all whom to trust and where she ultimately stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

THE SHADOW READER, by Sandy Williams
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: ***** 5 Stars
THE SHADOW READER is an inspiring interpretation of the fae in contemporary fantasy. Thoroughly enjoyable, the tale follows McKenzie Lewis as she is kidnapped from her college final exam and thrust into the middle of a fae war. She’s always been on the side of the fae King Atroth, but as she learns more about the rebels around her, she comes to discover that all may not be what it seems.

There were a couple of relatively minor world-building issues that stretched the limits of my ability to suspend disbelief, but despite that, I was carried away by this book and enjoyed every minute of the read.

Characters: ***** 5 Stars
I loved all of the characters in THE SHADOW READER. Each had a unique voice and brought together a deep, well-developed cast. Even the secondary characters enhanced the story, moving beyond mere placeholders to full characters in their own right.

Don’t let the girl on the cover deceive you, McKenzie Lewis is an average human college student, except for the fact that she can see fae magic and read the path of their fissures – portals from one world to another. Most notably, she does not carry a sword. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t kick-ass in her own right, stubborn and brave, trying to do the right thing without being deceived by the devious fae around her. She is the best shadow reader in the world, able to track the fae to within yards of their location after they jump through a fissure, making her a valuable asset to the King and a high-value target to the rebels.

Kyol is King Atroth’s sword-master, a cold warrior that softens only around McKenzie and loves her despite the King’s restriction that fae and humans cannot have a relationship. He does everything in his power to protect McKenzie, keeping her as far from the front lines of the war as possible and hiding her from the rebels, but eventually they catch up to her.

Aren is the rebel leader who finally manages to capture the shadow reader, but instead of killing her as he should in this brutal war, Aren tries to persuade her to see their side and learn the truth of the King and Kyol’s actions.

Plot: ***** 5 Stars
The plot was really well developed, with several twists and turns as McKenzie discovers more about the war, its origins, and her place in it. I especially enjoyed McKenzie’s internal conflict as she finds herself both sympathizing with the rebel cause (and its charismatic leader) and loyal to Kyol and the King. I couldn’t put the book down!

Setting: **** 4 Stars
Some of the world building threw me for a loop, sending me slightly out of the story to consider whether I could really believe the set-up. For example, when on Earth, the fae visibly show “chaos lusters”, bright lightning bolts of magic that dance across their skin. Only humans with the sight can see this magic, but the magic can jump from fae to human and back, a pleasurable sensation, apparently. The chaos lusters move faster when the fae is agitated or in pain, but why would the environmental magic be affected by mood? Similarly, human technology hurts the fae and drains their magic, regardless of what it’s made of, but I never understood why that would happen. I guess I like an explanation, even for the unexplainable.

However, the worlds themselves were really well developed, with great detail in the political situation, the atmosphere, and the scenery. I was drawn in and captivated by the world, not wanting to put the book down despite the few moments of distraction.

Romance: ***** 5 Stars
The love triangle between McKenzie, Kyol, and Aren is fantastic, despite Kyol not actually being present for most of the story. McKenzie is rightfully hesitant to trust Aren, her kidnapper. But Aren is immediately attracted to her and wants to keep her alive and safe. He works hard to make her see the rebel point of view, and change her opinion of him in the process. Kyol, on the other hand, has secretly held McKenzie’s heart for ten years and does everything in his power to bring her back to safety. McKenzie can’t help but think about him and struggles against her growing attraction to Aren in part due to loyalty to Kyol. There’s plenty of sexual tension between McKenzie and her two suitors, as well as plain old regular tension, but even though McKenzie eventually does make a choice, the novel is kept PG and the window is left open for further tension in future books.

Genre – Contemporary Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars
A great combination of action, suspense, and adventure, with strong character development, makes this a great contemporary fantasy. For those that like a lot of heavy romance in their fantasy, this might not be a great pick for you, but the author brought something new and interesting to the genre with THE SHADOW READER. I look forward to the next installment!

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Description From Goodreads:
Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge, and she’s determined to stay on the straight and narrow. But when her brother gets into hot water, the former thief takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack of all trades…

Kaldar Mar-a gambler, lawyer, thief, and spy-expects his latest assignment tracking down a stolen item to be a piece of cake, until Audrey shows up. But when the item falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job, he’s going to need Audrey’s help…

FATE’S EDGE, by Ilona Andrews
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

This is the third book in the series:

Review: **** 4 Stars

FATE’S EDGE was exactly what I’ve come to expect from the author team of Ilona Andrews, a perfectly paced adventure with unique characters and a romance that leaves you breathless for more. I’ve read all three of the edge books at this point, and look forward to the continuation of the series. Each book is a stand-alone novel following one of the secondary characters from the other books. Ilona Andrews does a great job of weaving backstory where needed without ruining the other stories, meaning that you can actually read these out of order.

Characters: **** 4 Stars
Audrey and Kaldar are an unbeatable team. Both grifters with specialized skills, the duo quickly realizes that the attraction is more than professional. Audrey has brains and beauty, using both to her advantage to achieve her goals. It also doesn’t hurt that she has a magical ability to pick any lock ever designed. Kaldar has good looks and charm, plus an ability to change personalities at the drop of a hat. Magically, Fate shines on Kaldar and he will win just about any bet he makes. The secondary characters were the charming young brothers, George and Jack, from ON THE EDGE, showing how they’ve both grown up a bit since we last saw them. I particularly love Jack, the lynx changeling that has issues understanding the rest of humanity and controlling his temper.

Then there were the villains, which, unfortunately, lived up to my expectations of being rather one dimensional with no redeeming qualities. They’re simply evil monsters, with an outrageous lust for blood and lack of humanity. The Hand (the spy organization that they work for) trains them that way, but I’d like to see one of them surprise me by showing a little compassion, or something above a desire to maim and kill. However, they do each have their own motivations for their work, and skill sets that make them interesting within the story.

Plot: **** 4 Stars
Perfectly paced, the story kept my butt glued to the seat of my chair but still allowed for character development and a realistic romantic relationship. Without giving anything away, I loved that Audrey came the the rescue at the end, using her wit to outfox the enemy and win, although I would have liked the final climactic scene to have progressed from her perspective rather than Kaldar’s so that we could have gotten a better picture of what actually happened.

Setting: **** 4 Stars
I’ve knocked a star off on the setting not because of anything in particular that was bad, but because it was 100% expected as compared to the other novels in the series. The Edge is a deep dark wilderness, the Broken is our earth, and the Weird is a medieval magical realm. I would have liked a new climate or something completely out of expectation to create some interest in the setting.

Romance: ***** 5 Stars
Ilona Andrews excels at developing realistic romances that make sense to the story. Audrey and Kaldar are a wonderful match, but Audrey has reservations for good cause. As a result, they don’t jump into bed too quickly and the plot isn’t entirely centered around the sex scenes. Instead, Kaldar has to work to win Audrey’s acceptance, building to an intense moment together that had my heart pounding.

Genre – Contemporary Fantasy Romance: ***** 5 Stars
FATE’S EDGE has it all, an action packed story with a fantastic romance and well-developed characters. Ilona Andrews is a master of the genre. I highly recommend The Edge series and FATE’S EDGE in particular.

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Description From Goodreads:

Shadow figures are stalking the population of an English University town. A Physics student can sense the emotions of others. His two best friends notice he is coming home injured and distracted. He is looking for something. What he has already found is magic that connects this world to a sister-planet, and people who can help him.

Available on Amazon

Review: * 1 Star
Ordinarily, I would not have finished this book, but the author requested a review, and I wanted to give it a chance. Unfortunately, I was never engaged by the story. The writing style was disjointed and choppy, skipping from one idea to the next without a clear connection or flow. If you happen to be a rider, it was like trotting bareback on a bony horse with a limp. I never felt connected to the world, or the characters, or the danger in the plot. It was all laid out as basic facts. Even the dialogue made little sense and there were several scenes that didn’t seem to have a place in the story…like when James would suddenly be in his friends room and would ask for tea and biscuits.

From page 1:

“Alex’s foot struck the stack of folders by the desk. They began to slide from the middle of the pile. He dove down to stop them, grabbed at the nearest one to him and turned it over, scattering its contents.

‘Oh hell.’

He straightened up and stepped back. James knelt down to begin to help him pick them up.

‘No, no. Just leave it. Just go over there and sit down.’ This was Michael rapidly running out of patience. Alex sat down. He grinned at the carpet.”

Characters: * 1 Star
James is a an eighteen year-old college student who finds himself drawn into a conflict bigger than anything he has ever experienced before, yet immediately he feels like he’s the only person that can stop what’s going on, and he never questions that he needs to fix it. His friends and companions are mostly peripheral, and their interactions seemed forced. I never got a real sense of any of their personalities and never connected with any of the characters.

Plot: * 1 Star
It was largely due to the disjointed writing style, but the story never grabbed me. It didn’t feel immediate, and I never felt present in the story. It was as if someone was simply relating facts as they happened rather than telling a story.

Setting: * 1 Stars
The descriptions and world building in SAPPHIRE HUNTING were severely lacking. The author attempted to imbue a sense of lyricism, but it failed miserably. For example: “The sun had broken through the clouds and the rain, now gentler, was falling in fiery drops through the afternoon sunlight.” Despite the strong adjectives, the description as a whole failed to help me visualize the setting. I couldn’t help thinking he was just getting wet.

Relationships: * 1 Star
While I never felt connected to the story, neither did I feel the connections between the characters on the page. I couldn’t read their emotions or understand their motives. Once again, the reader was expected to take as fact that the characters had emotional involvement, without ever actually seeing it.

Genre – YA Fantasy: *** 3 Stars
The age group was older teen, and it fit within that model. The elements of fantasy were present in the story, and had the other parts of the story worked, the genre would have probably appealed to the desired audience. However, with everything else that didn’t work, it’s hard to rate the genre as better than a 3.

Note: This review was made at the request of the author.  The only compensation received was a free copy of the book.

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Description From Goodreads:

Zoë Merrick wakes up after she is murdered, and is surprised to find she is not only alive – but transformed. Even more unexplainable are the new abilities she has no control over.

It’s not until a handsome and arrogant man named Justus walks into her life that Zoë discovers she is no longer human, but like him – a Mage. Forced to trust him, she must come to terms with accepting her new life and identity.

When her immortal freedom is threatened by the one man who has a right to claim her, Zoë learns the price of freedom…and the value of loyalty.

STERLING, by Dannika Dark
Available on Amazon

Review: **** 4 Stars
The Goodreads description does not do this book justice!

Zoe Merrick is an average Jane. She lives with her cat, just got out of a bad relationship, and her best friend is gorgeous, leaving her feeling slightly less than perky. But on her way home from a girls night out, Zoe’s average life ends with a brutal attack and she’s thrust into a new and confusing existence.

It begins when she wakes up in a body bag covered in blood. Then she goes through physical changes: she grows taller, her eyes turn green, and her copper hair turns black and glossy. Luckily her rescuer, Adam, has a protective instinct and a strong stomach as he takes it all in stride and helps her without question…until Justus arrives and reveals the truth: Zoe has been transformed into a Mage, a Breed that can control energy and manipulate it based on individual gifts. Usually, a Mage is made by special selection and it is an honor to be chosen, but Zoe is unique in that she did not choose to be Mage. Her Creator attacked and left her for dead. Without a Creator, Zoe is left vulnerable to other Mage until she has enough power and control to protect herself. Justus takes her under his wing, becoming her Ghaurdian until her Creator comes to claim her, a Creator’s right by Mage law, and he can do whatever he wants with her.

I didn’t have high expectations for STERLING based on the original description, but I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Characters: **** 4 Stars
The beginning of the novel was a little rough in the character development arena. After being attacked, Zoe is rescued by Adam, a handsome former soldier who watches over her while she sleeps and her body physically transforms. The problem I had was how quickly Adam takes it all in stride and Zoe feels comfortable around him. I’m sure, had it been me, I would have been terrified, not knowing how who this strange man was, whether he might be connected to the attack, or how I got to his apartment. Yet as soon as she’s fed they’re best friends. Similarly, when Justus arrives on scene, he’s antagonistic and angry, yet Zoe manages to trust him really quickly.

That being said, as the novel progressed, the characters really grew on me and I ended up loving them all. Zoe is strong and resilient, indomitable yet also vulnerable. Adam is protective and has a truly generous heart. Justus is also protective, but more chivalrous and old-fashioned. Simon, introduced later in the story, is sexy and funny, using his rockstar appearance to hide a kind soul. I did think it was a little much to have three protective men guarding over her (and no other women), but they all had distinct personalities and served different roles in Zoe’s new life.

Plot: **** 4 Stars
The pacing of STERLING was perfect, the plot complex enough to be interesting, and the world-building nicely done. I’ve knocked off a star because the beginning of the novel suffered from some abrupt time shifts that skipped too much potential character development. However, I could not have asked for a better ending! It was climactic and action packed, building the danger to a perfect pitch before resolving with a happy conclusion. The story was complete in itself, but the real “Big Bad” was left for Zoe to deal with in later installments. I only wish the second book in the series was already available!

Setting: ***** 5 Stars
I was able to visualize Zoe’s surroundings in almost every scene, but the description wasn’t overly heavy or obnoxious. I lost myself in her world, never skipping a paragraph to move onto the next bit of dialogue or action.

Romance: *** 3 Stars
With three male protectors, all of whom seem interested in her, it was hard to know who to root for, and apparently Zoe didn’t know either. Adam is fantastic in the beginning, and I was drawn to him, hoping that he would somehow manage to overcome the obstacle of her new abilities (unable to safely interact with him when she’s in a…ahem…high emotional state). But then Justus turns out to be a really great guy, just awkward and unsure of how to behave around Zoe, particularly since she’s his student. And Simon was a lot of fun, but I felt like he managed to wiggle his way into her life too quickly. There’s a lot of potential for a love…pyramid? square?…anyway, there’s a lot of potential with any of the three men, but nothing was accomplished and I felt like I was left hanging in the wind, waiting for one of them to make a move (one that wouldn’t involve anyone getting physically hurt, anyway).

Genre – Contemporary Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars
STERLING is a unique take on a current trend, and I loved it. The fact that Mage aren’t sorcerers and don’t perform magic, but manipulate energy was interesting and a fun twist (I haven’t seen too many elementals recently). Plus the modern day setting with some centuries-old protectors, with dark action and high stakes, made this a fantastically fun story. It was worth every penny, and then some!

(In fact, with a few revisions to the first few chapters, and a better description on Amazon, I would have gladly forked over a few extra dollars!)

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Description From Goodreads:

Valerie Dearborn wants a cotton candy life, but it’s more like a puffer fish: pointy, unusual, and—if not prepared exactly right—deadly.

In London for graduate school, Val knows she’s finally free. Her father and ex-almost-boyfriend are back in California and she’s out of the Vampire hunting biz for good. Or is she?

She draws the attention of Lucas, a 1600 year old Vampire, and King to his kind. He’s also wicked hot. As golden as Lucifer, and just as tempting, he makes Valerie an offer she can’t refuse— help him find out if the Others (Empaths, Fey and Werewolves) still exist or he’ll stop protecting those she loves.

Lucas tells her that Empaths were a Vampire’s biggest weakness before going extinct hundreds of years ago. While the Fey or a Werewolf might kill a Vampire, an Empath could enslave them, seducing or harming with emotions at will. The one detail he leaves out? Valerie is an Empath.

And after 1600 years of an emotionless existence, Lucas wants Valerie like a recovering alcoholic wants a wine cooler.

Can she keep those she loves alive, stop Lucas from munching on her, survive a fanged revolution and still find a way to have that boring, normal life she’s always wanted? Probably not, but boy is she gonna try!

LOVE IS DARKNESS, by Caroline Hanson
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: *** 3 Stars
The Goodreads description pretty well sums up the book. Valerie Dearborn wants a simple human life, but she keeps getting sucked into the dark underworld of the Others…well, the vampires anyway.

Overall, this was a good book, but not a great one. The characters were reasonably believable, the plot was fast enough to keep me entertained, but there were also quite a few problems that were distracting during the read, including grammar and spelling errors, and problematic point of view switches (one paragraph from one character followed immediately by another paragraph from a different character, and back again). At $.99, it’s a fun distraction and a quick romp in urban fantasy, but don’t expect anything extraordinary.

Characters: *** 3 Stars
Nearly every character in this novel was a contradiction of themselves. Valerie wants to have a “normal” life, but she loves men who can’t give her that normalcy. In fact, the only man that could, Ian, is a non-character that was present for a couple of chapters and unnecessary for the plot. I actually would have preferred her just focusing on her grad school studies rather than getting involved with a stand-in. Meanwhile, Jack is the bad boy from her past that simultaneously wants to protect her by keeping her away from the action, but gets jealous when she actually tries to have a life outside of his world. Lucas is the vampire king that has been emotionless for centuries, but on finding out that Valerie is an empath, wants to take her as his own while using her as a tool to find more of the Others (empaths, werewolves, and fae). None of the characters really grew through the story or resolved their issues, although at least Valerie realized she was probably never going to have her white picket dream.

Plot: *** 3 Stars
Beyond the basic spelling and grammar issues (which automatically subtract a star), the story concept was strong but the execution of the plot was forgettable. The intro flashback chapters could have been incorporated into the rest of the story better, providing integrated background and adding some suspense instead of being front-loaded on the novel. Once we finally get into the meat of the story, Valerie does a lot of complaining while being whooshed around by Lucas or ordered around by Jack. Some of the action sequences toward the end were good, and the verbal repartee was fun, but there were huge plot holes that needed to be filled. For example, a whole section of the story is devoted to Valerie doing research on the Others. Lucas whisks her off to the British Library, sneaking her into the stacks using his ability to dematerialize. However, in subsequent chapters, Valerie is going to the library on her own. How does she get to the books she needs without Lucas? Similarly, she finally discovers some information, but never has a chance to report it to Lucas, yet somehow he magically knows about it. It left me with a lot of unanswered questions.

The ending also left me hanging. It was too open-ended and too abrupt, like a cliff-hanger at the end of your favorite TV series before they go on break for the holidays. LOVE IS DARKNESS clearly wasn’t intended to be a stand-alone novel, but I shouldn’t have turned the last virtual page thinking there were still several chapters to go.

Setting: **** 4 Stars
I love London, so the setting worked for me, but probably because I’ve been there. The description was somewhat limited, and I never fully felt sucked into the world, but I was still able to enjoy it.

Romance: *** 3 Stars
The love triangle was set up nicely, but failed due to an overabundance of jealousy, lack of willpower, and inability to make a decision. I loved the tension between Valerie and her two interests, but I never felt emotionally involved in either relationship. I wanted to her to have some kind of epiphany, even a small one, that would start her down the path toward one of the men.

Genre – Urban Fantasy: **** 4 Stars
LOVE IS DARKNESS fit right in to the urban fantasy genre. It’s dark enough to please, with a couple of kinky twists and lots of vampire action. That being said, I didn’t feel the story offered anything new to the genre, so I can’t give it a full 5 stars.

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Description From Amazon:

It all begins with a lost manuscript, a reluctant witch, and 1,500-year-old vampire. Dr. Diana Bishop has a really good reason for refusing to do magic: she is a direct descendant of the first woman executed in the Salem Witch Trials, and her parents cautioned her be discreet about her talents before they were murdered, presumably for having “too much power.” So it is purely by accident that Diana unlocks an enchanted long-lost manuscript (a book that all manner of supernatural creatures believe to hold the story of all origins and the secret of immortality) at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and finds herself in a race to prevent an interspecies war. A sparkling debut written by a historian and self-proclaimed oenophile, A Discovery of Witches is heady mix of history and magic, mythology, and love (cue the aforementioned vampire!), making for a luxurious, intoxicating, one-sitting read. –Daphne Durham

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, by Deborah Harkness
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: ***** 5 Stars
Dr. Diana Bishop is a young professor studying the history of science, particularly alchemy.  It’s an ironic career choice, since the human alchemists of the past hoped to transform lead into gold and discover the elixir of life, arguably magical goals, and Diana is a witch who knows magic is real, but refuses to accept her heritage.

During a brief leave of absence from her position at Yale, Diana is researching the illuminated alchemical manuscripts in Oxford’s Bodleian library when she accidentally calls a bewitched manuscript from the stacks.  Still trying to avoid using magic in her scholarly efforts, Diana quickly studies the manuscript, then sends it back to the recesses of the library.  Unfortunately, calling the manuscript also calls the attention of the otherworld races.  As Diana is followed by daemons, threatened by witches, and watched by vampires, there’s only one creature that she feels she can trust, a 1,500 year-old vampire.

Matthew Clairmont, a scientist and fellow at Oxford, is also interested in the manuscript, but rather than making Diana feel uncomfortable or threatened, he protects and comforts her.  Unfortunately, as their friendship blooms, the other witches become increasingly angry, going so far as to call Diana a traitor and attempting to invade her mind to discover her secrets.  What began as a simple research project morphs into a race to save Diana’s life and discover the truth of the manuscript, the history of the otherworldly creatures, and the path of the future.

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is a fantastic debut novel by an actual historian of science.  The depth of knowledge is evident throughout the novel, and the craft is beautifully executed.  This was one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in years!

Characters: ***** 5 Stars
The characters in A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES are fully developed and well-rounded.  They all have strengths and weaknesses, make occasional bad decisions, and generally act like real people.  Diana Bishop struggles between her heritage and her desire to succeed based on her academic merits.  She’s not a kick-ass heroine, she’s real.  She’s strong, loyal, and dedicated to her family and her career.  Matthew Clairmont is a 1,500 year-old vampire, something that should make him unbelievable in the real world, but somehow he works.  Slowly, over the course of the novel, Matthew’s extensive history is revealed along with the structure of the vampire world.  For once, the hero and heroine are not orphaned or abandoned or ostracised from their families.  Both Diana and Matthew have loving families that do their best to support and protect each other.  They have their struggles and conflicts, but again, they’re real characters with real problems, despite the fact that they’re witches and vampires.

Plot: **** 4 Stars
This is a long book, and it’s paced more like an epic fantasy rather than an urban or contemporary fantasy, which was delightfully unexpected when I first picked up the book.  The plot unfolds gradually, beginning with a single character and setting, and leading into the more complex themes of the novel.  My only complaint is that it’s a little too slow to get started.  It took a few chapters for me to become invested in the characters and the story, but once I was sucked in, there was no turning back.

Setting: ***** 5 Stars
Deborah Harkness must have spent a lot of time in the Bodleian, Oxford, and France.  It’s the only way to explain the depth she’s imbued into the setting of the novel.  The only setting I felt was a little lacking was the Bishop house, but that might have been because it kept magically adding rooms!

Romance: ***** 5 Stars
Diana and Matthew become involved slowly over the course of the novel, but their love seems to run deeper than the average fantasy couple.  They’re not perfect, and they each have to learn to accept the others faults and choose to be together, much like a real marriage.  There’s no sex in this story, at least not in the traditional American sense of the word, but the passion between them smolders all the same.

Genre – Contemporary Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars
I loved A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES through and through.  As noted, the pacing is slower, more epic fantasy than contemporary, but it fit the story and allowed the author to create a depth that isn’t always present in urban or contemporary fantasy.  I would highly recommend this as a starter novel for newbies in the fantasy genre, as well as the long-time readers that enjoy taking their time with a book.

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