Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
Published By: Viking Adult
Publication Date: February 2011
Page Count: 579
Buy it at Amazon or IndieBound
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Adult - Fantasy, Paranormal

A Discovery of Witches was an enjoyable but very complex read on so many levels. The plot was intricately woven, the characters had depth and were interesting, and TONS of research obviously had to have gone into the technical aspects of it... it was simply mind-boggling, and admittedly lost me at times, but the story itself had me glued. If I could give half birdies, I would rate it 4.5 for me only because I was a tad frustrated with the scholarly speak, but am rounding it up to five birdies because it was really a great book overall and hard to put down for the most part! 

The best way I can describe A Discovery of Witches is that it's like Twilight for grown-ups. Now, before you roll your eyes... it's not the same story! There were definitely some Twilight-ish elements present -- the parallels were just barely recognizable but there. And that's not a complaint because I also happen to love the Twilight books, but at the same time, Deborah Harkness's story is essentially her own, and I would challenge anyone who didn't enjoy Twilight to give this book serious consideration. 

Forbidden love is the central theme, and in this story, a 1500 year old vampire (who doesn't look a day over 37) falls in love with a seemingly reluctant witch. Diana Bishop is the reluctant witch in question and a scholar at Oxford University in England. Her research at the Bodleian Library, located on the Oxford campus, focuses on analyzing historical alchemical manuscripts. The beginning of the story starts off with Diana about to analyze the mysterious manuscript, Ashmole 782. Some inexplicable reactions from the book itself unnerves Diana and so she returns the manuscript to the stacks, with the intent on looking at it another time. However, this is not the end of it. Diana calling on Ashmole 782 has also caused a flurry of interest within the supernatural creatures community, who have been seeking the manuscript for years, including Professor Matthew Clairmont... the 1500 year old vampire. 

In this story, 'creatures' consist of witches, vampires and daemons. A covenant set out centuries earlier declared that the three different species of creatures could not and would not "mix". Once it becomes clear that Diana and Matthew's relationship is progressing... powerful leaders in the creatures community will stop at nothing to separate them. Why? You will have to read to find out, but it fundamentally has something to do with alchemical explanations found in Ashmole 782. 

Diana and Matthew's relationship is quite unique, and at the same time, beautiful. Some modern women might bristle at the manner in which Matthew conducts himself, and those around him, but you have to remember that he is 1500 years old... and a vampire... not a normal human being only knowing modern societal mannerisms. And I loved his protectiveness of Diana as their relationship evolved. His adoration for her was very evident. Diana, the scholarly woman that she is, fell hard and fast for him. The vampires' customs were very old-fashioned but it worked in this story. 

The supporting cast of characters were AWESOME... including The House! Diana's aunts in the U.S. and Matthew's family in France were all complex members, richly woven into the story. The bad-guys were expertly written... and put the fear of God into you. 

Melting romance, intriguing mythology... and you can't help but get somewhat educated in the process. If I had a complaint about this story, it would just be that I had a hard time understanding much of the technical aspects of it. While I did learn a little bit more about DNA and alchemy with a bit of history thrown in, some of it admittedly went over my head, and it bothered me that I was perhaps missing some connections. I wouldn't call the ending a "throw-your-book-against-the-wall" cliffhanger but it did leave me anxious to see where the author will take us in the next book. Overall, it was a really good read and I'm really looking forward to the next installment.

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. 

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the "Twilight" series-with an extra serving of historical realism.


  1. I have heard such wonderful things about this novel. I have it on audio and I can't wait to listen to it.

  2. I have been wanting to read this one for awhile. Great review! :)

  3. Nice job with your inaugural review, Michele. I've heard great things about this one, too, but haven't gotten to it yet- maybe I need to make a little time for it.

  4. Great job, name twin! LOL This one just moved up on my TBR pile.

  5. This was my favorite book of 2011! I am gladnyounenjoyed

  6. This book has caught my eye a few times, so I just pay pick it up soon. Forbidden love? I'm there :) Also...

    You have been book tagged! Follow the link to see what it's about and play along.

  7. Thank you everyone!! It means a lot that you want to read this book after reading my review! I don't think you'll be disappointed!!

  8. I have read this book and absolutely loved it! I couldn't put it down and was disappointed that I have to wait for the next in the series.


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