All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness

on November 13, 2018

A Discovery Of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)
Deborah Harkness
Viking Penguin
2011, 579p
Copy borrowed from Marg @

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

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 borrowed the first two books in this series an embarrassing number of years ago from Marg over at The Intrepid Reader. By best guess it was somewhere around 2012/13 and they’ve been sitting on my shelves ever since. Moving house made me reorganise all my books and I ended up putting them into a bookcase I keep for books that have been on my TBR a while but that I want to get to sooner rather than later. When I started seeing ads for the tv adaptation of A Discovery Of Witches coming soon I figured that it might be a good time.

It starts so promisingly – in fact I was so engrossed that I almost forgot to go and pick up my kids on Friday afternoon. Diana is the last in a long line of witches but due to a tragedy in her past, she doesn’t use her powers – or so she thinks. One day unwittingly she calls up an ancient manuscript in the library at Oxford. The manuscript has been spelled and no one has been able to catch a glimpse of it in a long time…..and all three of the supernatural creatures, vampires, daemons and witches are all desperate to get their hands on it. Because she was able to summon the manuscript (although she sent it back without realising its power and the fact that it was sought after) she now finds herself followed by a little variety of creatures, including ancient vampire Matthew Clairmont.

I love a lot about this book – the backstory of daemons, vampires and witches, the divide between the three different ‘species’ and the Covenant that prevents them from intermarrying or relating. I liked Diana’s background and how what happened to her parents informed her decision as a young adolescent in terms of her magic and the further we got into the story, the more we learned about that magic and how her parents had played a role in it too. This is a multi-layered story and each new reveal, each layer peeled back built and expanded upon the story really nicely. I was really intrigued by the idea of the spelled manuscript and Diane’s innocent ability to call it because she didn’t really know what she was doing or understand what she was even accessing.

Where the book kind of loses it for me (and this is unfortunate because it becomes a rather large part of the story) is the romance. Matthew is a 1500year old vampire and he’s basically a grown up Edward Cullen. This is Twilight for big people. He follows Diana, he breaks into her room to watch her sleep, he’s ridiculously possessive (wrapped up in vampire bullshit and hierarchy and being obeyed and whatever) and he’s bossy and orders her around and wants to protect her from all the other weirdos stalking her but he’s just as big a weirdo as the rest of them. They fall in love ridiculously fast, instalove on steroids and it’s because theirs is a special snowflake sort of love which is going to forever change things for the species’ because of course it is. He spends a lot of time growling at the back of his throat and refusing to have sex with Diana in case he loses his mind and kills her or something I suppose. And then for -other- reasons.

On one hand, there is so much about this that is just a really great, detailed and intricate story. The history is awesome, the settings are fantastic and I like a lot of the secondary characters and the way things are pieced together and the different species’ around Diana and Matthew are coming to terms with working with each other in order to figure out the manuscript and also because there’s kind of a war coming about Matthew and Diana being in love. But this is also quite a long book….there’s a lot of pretty extraneous stuff in here about what Diana wears, what she eats, what she drinks and the author seems to really like wine because Matthew likes wine and he’s been alive for over a thousand years so he’s super rich and knows a lot about wine and has an extensive wine collection and we get a lot of stuff about the wine he likes and why and where it’s grown and he makes Diana smell things and tell him what she smells which is a bit weird. Also Diana takes an awful lot of naps. Like, a lot of naps.

It took me four days to read this book – for a lot of reasons. Like I mentioned, it’s long. I also was quite busy over the weekend as it had been my husband’s birthday on Thursday and we had family over on Saturday, plus swimming lessons, shopping and that sort of stuff. I’ve also been in a bit of a reading slump and keep picking books up and putting them down without opening them. I think it’s partially just ‘that time of year’ where you’re getting to the end, everyone is getting a bit tired, the kids have plenty of things on and Christmas is looming (and I still haven’t done a single thing about that, not a present bought, not a single thing organised, oops). I did enjoy it, despite my skepticism on the romance and the Matthew character as a whole. And I’m ready to watch the tv show now when it airs, which is actually this Thursday evening. I also have the second book here and I am definitely planning to continue on with the series because the historical and witchcraft stuff is so interesting to me. I’m hoping it might be a bit less kinda angsty than this one, but we shall see.


Book #189 of 2018

4 responses to “Review: A Discovery Of Witches by Deborah Harkness

  1. I actually want to read this book and have it on my TBR as I just started watching the TV show for it.

  2. I’ve had this on my TBR for the longest time as well. Is the show airing on free TV or is it Netflix?

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