Book Review · What's in a Name Challenge

REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness
Hardcover edition (borrowed from my mom)

Goodreads synopsis: 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.

I’ve read mixed reviews on this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I finally borrowed this from my mom.  I’m pretty sure I once took it from her when she first got it, but then I never got around to it, so I gave it back.  I didn’t really know anything about it, actually – no idea who the main characters would be (male/female), what time period it would take place in, or where.  So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a woman a few years older than me in present-day England (for the most part).

The characters were decent, and I liked them, including Diana’s aunts’ house – it was very fun and interesting with all its rooms, magical things and ghosts. The one thing that I felt was slightly off was the fact that Matthew kept saying that vampires are so dangerous and that Diana shouldn’t romanticize them, but I felt like they were still kind of romanticized anyway.  The whole love story was predictable, but it is what it is.

I thought the science/DNA aspect of the story was interesting – not many of these books try to give scientific explanation for why witches/vampires/daemons exist, but it seems the characters are trying to figure it out.  And I guess when you’re 1500 years old, what else have you got but time to study this stuff?

I thought the book was longer than it needed to be, especially for the first book in a trilogy. I’m sure there were some things that could have been cut (all the time in the library, eating, some of the time spent at Matthew’s house with his mother, etc.).  But I’m really just looking at the book as entertainment and not trying to dissect it.

I just got the second book from my mom a week or two ago, so I’ll get around to it.  I want to know what’s going on with Ashmole 782, the alchemical manuscript mentioned in the synopsis above.


10 thoughts on “REVIEW: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

  1. I adore this series. Although I know what you mean by it being too long, I think at this series has a historical richness and contextual complexity that is hard to find in other books, especially those I this genre. Readers should never forget that the author is a history of science professor herself and she expects us to be good students and do our research, whether it is on the names of witches “Proctor” and “Bishop” or on the mythology of the goddess Diana.

    I am particularly following the fact that Warner Brothers has optioned this series, the script is written and two producers have been named. There is a crusade afoot to have Richard Armitage cast as Matthew Clairmont. You might like to check it out here: or

    I hope you enjoy Shadow of Night as well!


    1. Thanks for your comments! I haven’t started the second book yet, but plan to very soon.

      I had no idea there was an idea for a movie! I could see Matt Bomer (from White Collar on USA) as Clairmont, except that he’s American…but he’s super handsome 🙂 I’ll check that link out.


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