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The All Souls Trilogy #1

A Discovery of Witches

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Alternate cover edition of ASIN B004DI7HZ6

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.

594 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 8, 2011

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About the author

Deborah Harkness

54 books28.5k followers
Deborah Harkness is a #1 New York Times bestselling author who draws on her expertise as an historian of science, medicine, and the history of the book to create rich narratives steeped in magical realism, historical curiosity, and deeply human questions about what it is that makes us who we are.

The first book in Harkness’s beloved All Souls series, A Discovery of Witches, was an instant New York Times bestseller and the series has since expanded with the addition of subsequent NYT bestsellers, Shadow of Night (2012), The Book of Life (2014), and Time’s Convert (2018), as well as the companion reader, The World of All Souls. The All Souls series has been translated in thirty-eight languages.

The popular television adaptation of A Discovery of Witches, starring Theresa Palmer and Matthew Goode, was released in 2019 by Sky/Sundance Now, and also broadcast on AMC.

Having spent more than a quarter of a century as a student and scholar of history, Harkness holds degrees from Mount Holyoke College, Northwestern University, and the University of California at Davis. She is currently a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she teaches European history and the history of science.

Harkness has published scholarly articles on topics such as the influence of theatrical conventions on the occult sciences, scientific households, female medical practice in early modern London, medical curiosity, and the influence of accounting practices on scientific record keeping. She has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships, and her most recent scholarly work is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 42,954 reviews
Profile Image for Squee.
53 reviews160 followers
December 4, 2013
Upon sighting this book in a soon-to-be-closed Borders store, I was intrigued. The blurb sounded interesting and the first couple of pages seemed competently written. Despite the huge discount, I hesitated, and instead checked the book out from the library.

And am I ever glad that I didn't actually buy it.

The book started out promising. Protagonist Diana Bishop, distinguished history scholar and professor (just like the author! uh oh...), repressed witch, tea aficionado, rower and yoga enthusiast, accidentally calls forth a magical text that every witch, vampire, and daemon in the world seems to want. Unfortunately, Diana has a major chip on her shoulder about her own magic. She sends the text back to the stacks where once again, no one can find it.

This doesn't sit well with with her fellow magical beings, and they begin a 24/7 stalkfest in hopes that she will retrieve the manuscript again. Early adopter stalker, vampire Matthew Clairmont, proves particularly troublesome. Diana is extremely wary of Matthew, and rightfully so--he follows her everywhere and even breaks into her apartment and watches her sleep.

Then they decide to team up and soon fall in love, at which point all semblance of plot disappears and the novel turns into an endless tangent about Diana's newly developed Stockholm Syndrome and how she must be protected from all the (other) dangerous stalkers.

At first, I thought that this book was going to be an intelligent Twilight for grown-ups--the main character wasn't helpless, thought for herself, didn't immediately adore her bloodsucking, murderous stalker or find his abusive behavior endearing, and didn't seem interested in losing her entire identity to the first good-looking guy who wanted to eat her. A rebuttal of Twilight, almost.

But no. Despite Diana's increasing Mary Sue-ishness as she develops every witch ability ever known, she must constantly be rescued and protected by Edward, er, Matthew.

Matthew, meanwhile, is a complete jackass. Trotting out the obnoxious "pack mentality" trope so often used in "paranormal romance" (a genre that really, really needs to be marked better so that those of us looking for "urban fantasy" won't be blindsided every damn time), Matthew is neatly absolved from all responsibility for his sexist insistence that Diana obey him as her husband and for his volatile, potentially murderous temper if and when she doesn't comply.

The past seemed gray and cold without Matthew. And the future promised to be much more interesting with him in it. No matter how brief our courtship, I certainly felt bound to him. And, given vampires' pack behavior, it wasn't going to be possible to swap obedience for something more progressive, whether he called me "wife" or not.

Apparently, this is just fine and dandy with Diana despite her previous proclamations of female independence and autonomy. And oh yeah, Matthew unilaterally married her without even notifying her, and that was fine too.

I have a theory that a lot of the current, noxious crop of vampire-themed "romance" is a symptom of a cultural backlash against feminism. Once you strip away the paranormal aspect of novels like "A Discovery of Witches" and its stunted and even more vile cousin "Twilight", you are left with stories about abusive, manipulative men who systematically isolate and dominate the female objects of their obsession. The women's identities are subsumed into the men's as the women's lives come to revolve completely around the men, while the men suffer no such mutilation of self--they simply gain an empty, mindlessly adoring, woman-shaped appendage, which is all that is left of the women by the end of the stories. Without the trappings of vampire and/or werewolf hierarchy (always patriarchal, of course), what you're left with is an authorial "boys will be boys!" with an underlying message that submission to the (patriarchal) hierarchy is necessary both to achieve happiness and to avoid violence at the hands of the vampires/werewolves/abusive boyfriends/husbands who just can't help it.

Even putting aside the issue of the horrible, horrible underlying message in this book, it still has nothing much to offer. Pages and pages are devoted to describing stilted, "romantic" conversations that fall flat, how Diana exercises, what she eats, what wine they drink, how long she sleeps, what's in her tea, how great their yoga class was, bla bla bla ad infinitum. A little detail here and there is flavor, too much is encyclopedic and boring. Most of the action takes place off-screen while Diana sleeps, or waits, or sleeps and waits. Diana goes from being subject to object almost the very moment that she decides that Matthew, despite being a deadly creature who has been stalking her, might not be so bad after all, and takes little action for the rest of the book except to travel back and forth from Matthew's vampire mother's castle (yes, really) in France (which she comes to think of as her home alarmingly quickly) and her aunt's magical house in England America (New England?), which apparently isn't special enough for her anymore.

A whole lot of nothing happens, then Diana gets kidnapped and tortured but is of course rescued by Matthew. A whole lot more nothing happens. Then almost at the end, some new characters show up who seem like they should have been more important to the story but are introduced way too late. Among them is Sophie, a pregnant daemon who was born from witches and is pregnant with a witch baby. Sophie is pregnant, and she will be having a baby, which the author reminds the reader of in nearly every sentence involving Sophie, who is pregnant. Watch her rub her belly with pregnant serenity (or is it smugness? I can't tell)! She is pregnant!

Then Diana uses her ungodly overpowered witchy time travel magic to whisk herself and Matthew into the past, because witches used to be more powerful and she needs more powerful witches than currently exist anywhere in the world to teach her reach the full potential of the Mary Sue.

In fairness, I must admit that I loved the aunts' magical house, which was almost its own character. Unfortunately, the house was the only part of the book that I didn't feel was 1) endless, unnecessary detail or 2) lifted almost wholesale out of other works.

While the author is clearly a competent writer, her storytelling needs a lot of polishing. Honest, heavy editing could possibly have worked wonders on this book; instead, it got hype and marketing. To me, it makes the book all the more disappointing to see that there was potential, that it wasn't a disaster from the start. It almost felt like the book was cut open and artificially inflated with the dull, problematic romance, which it may well have been. I didn't know this book was supposed to be part of a trilogy, since it is only marked as such on the bottom of the front inside jacket cover underneath library tape. I can't imagine wanting to read any further, though.

In short: yawn and barf. Now please excuse me while I go write a boring ode to stalkers and Stockholm Syndrome thinly disguised as a vampire novel thinly disguised as a book about witches. If you need me, you can find me laughing all the way to the bank.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kristina.
1,214 reviews477 followers
November 1, 2020
This is an odd book. Now that I have finished reading it, I'm not sure why I was so enamored of it. With so much discussion of spells and enchantment, I wouldn't be surprised if the book put a spell on me. Despite overall enjoying the book, there are still lots of things about it that irritated me. First, the author needed a better editor. I am finding more often that books surrounded by a certain amount of hype are not well-edited. I don't know if the editors think that every word the author writes is gold or if editors are timid, but in either case they aren't doing their job. Much of this book could have chopped out and the story tightened up. There are too many extraneous details that weigh down the plot (and what exactly the plot is is also a good question). I think the author, in order to differentiate her witch/vampire/supernatural book from all the other supernatural books on the shelves, threw in everything, including the kitchen sink, into her novel. It's exhausting stumbling around the pages trying to figure out what the plot is. I'm going to try not being too specific because even though nothing really happens in this novel (really, nothing does), there is information that shouldn't be divulged until you read the novel. Harkness has several plot lines going: the mysterious Ashmole 782 manuscript, the forbidden love affair between Diana the
reluctant witch and Matthew the 1,000 + years old vamp, the mysterious death of her parents, the possible extinction of the supernatural beings, the Congregation wanting to know the extent of Diana's power, tracing Diana's DNA, and the threat of a witch/vamp war. It's all a little crazy.

This book is some kind of pseudo-science, pseudo-historical novel what with all the science and history. The excessive alchemical details get annoying, as does the DNA discussions (and you'd better know what mtDNA is because I don't think the book does a good job explaining it. Luckily, I knew). However, unlike the alchemy stuff (which I didn't see the point of as it related to the storylines), at least the DNA information is related to the plot(s) of the book. The romance is fairly interesting and intense at first, but it quickly peters out into some of kind of tame, boring, lovey-dovey PG-rated sappy mess. It's not that I need pornographic details, but the author kept telling me how much they loved each other and how intense their passion was, but I never really felt it. Matthew, as a scary vampire, is a huge disappointment to me. I'm sorry, but you cannot have this vampire doing yoga and talking DNA with new-age geeky precision and then have me believe that he is all that scary. Nope, just doesn't work. Diana is also a disappointment. She's extremely annoying. She talks about how she wants to be a strong, independent woman, but in reality she is the wimpiest, most annoying witch ever. She won't use her witchy powers (which, to give the author some credit, I understand why she had this attitude), but when it comes time for her to protect herself, she wimps out, cowers, faints, and in rushes Matthew to save her AGAIN. Give me a break. The book is basically just a description of food, wine, her "stretchy black pants" and all the places Matthew took her to keep her hidden from the Congregation. (I don't like the term Congregation either. Makes me think of church and not a scary group of supernatural beings.) Apparently this book was compared to the Twilight series, which I think odd because I never saw the connection (I have read them all, to my shame). What I will compare this book to is the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse series. Those books are far superior to this book. Sookie is a poor little human with just her one skill (she can read minds) and yet she protects herself quite well, rarely needs her supernatural friends to come to her rescue, and has several times saved her vampire boyfriends. Plus, she does it all with a sense of humor. Diana, who apparently has every witchy power ever known, plus some that aren't, can barely twinkle her nose to make magical tea.

Another point of irritation with me are all the characters who need their backstories told. I don't really need to know or want to know everything about these characters. If they are going to stick around for awhile, tell me their stories later or create a glossary and stick them at the back of the book. The flow of the novel is stopped over and over again to tell me something not all that interesting about a minor character. My last point is about this ridiculous Knights of Lazarus organization. I find this organization absolutely unbelievable and incomprehensible. I'm not giving away any plot secrets by mentioning this because I still can't figure out what the author meant by creating this order of do-gooder vamps who have helped people in need over the centuries. It's so ridiculous. Whenever it was brought up, I tried to skim over it, hoping it would disappear. The haunted Bishop house, the house as a character, was entertaining. I did enjoy that detail. Overall though, now that I've written this review, I'm trying to figure out what exactly I DID like about the book. This book basically sets up the next two books in the trilogy. I will probably read the second book but I doubt I will buy it. I think Harkness, just as with Justin Cronin of The Passage, saw an opportunity to make some money on the current (and lasting way too long) vampire, witch, supernatural creatures popular literature fad. However, Harkness has taken vampires and turned them into wine-loving, gentle, kind creatures who wear business suits or lab coats, have tons of money, and are really kind of boring.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
745 reviews11.9k followers
April 25, 2023
For mere two bucks I rescued this book from a dusty shelf of a local Goodwill store, adopting it with high hopes.

For free, I returned it to the same shelf a few weeks later with dejected feeling, sandwiching it between a rejected copy of 'Twilight' and a tattered paperback with a shirtless guy on the cover.

At least it found its rightful spot. And I'm out only two dollars. And I would have gladly paid more to free my own bookshelf of this book.

So it goes.

My books mercilessly rejected the intruder.

The appeal of it (besides the beautiful cover deceptive in its alluring elegance of royal blue) was the introduction of a (supposedly) adult professional accomplished heroine, a history professor to boot, who allows us to take a fresh new look at supernatural occurrences rooted in history (and in a book written by a historian, too!). No sappy teen romance, no supernatural entities masking as high school bad boys, no helpless heroines in need of rescue as Diana, the protagonist, is supposedly from a strong magical line herself.

The reality of it was a book that many characterized as 'Twilight' for adults, which is an uncannily accurate description. We have a whiny insecure heroine (her personality is roughly that of a wet dishrag) who nevertheless is treated like a special snowflake for no reason whatsoever, who falls head over heels over the first remotely hot and mind-bogglingly rich vampire who (a) doesn't really need to drink blood, (b) has an insane amount of 'protectiveness' which really boils down to stalking and over-macho patriarchalism, (c) is hauntingly tortured by his dark past, and (d) is an intolerable self-centered rage-prone jerkass.
Before my brain explodes with distaste, here is a brief list of things that are NOT sexy or attractive: stalking, kidnapping, drugging an unsuspecting person, patronizing, condescension, snobbery, uncontrollable anger, murderous tendencies, codependency, and neverending smug name-dropping.

Here is a brief list of things that do not have to happen when heroine falls in love: helplessness, fully surrendering control, dramatic drop in intelligence, sudden childishness, unexplained neverending sniffing of the male love interest, need to be constantly rescued, codependency, and propensity for irrational acts.

Please feel free to add to any of the lists above.

The plot unfolds at a snail pace, getting easily distracted by an endless tedious repetition of any trite details of the characters' lives - wardrobe, meals, tea, lovestruck gazing, enough wine to call an impromptu Alcoholics Anonymous meeting¹, endless hours in the library, tea, lovestruck gazing, athletic activities, more wine, more food, more tea, more wardrobe, more lovestruck gazing, more repetitive description of basically EVERYTHING in almost a diary style, padding the meager plot to an impressive doorstopper size of the finished product.
¹ Actually, maybe consuming wine in the quantities described in this book would have helped with the boredom.

On the other thought, wine tends to make me sleepy. So does this book. It would have been quite a snoozefest combo.

Not to mention the absolutely ridiculous amount of page space given to an inter-species yoga session. Could have been worse, I suppose; it could have been vampire baseball. Or vampire cross-stitching, for all the excitement it brings.

Because of such insane repetitive padding of the tiny meager plot lines, the sizable book comes to an end right as real plot is about to start unfolding. Basically, it ends at the point where most self-respecting books would start (but of course, those self-respecting books would not have subjected the reader to such a hefty amount of tedious, superfluous detail to wonder whether the author was paid per word written).

In a nutshell, this book was boring and unoriginal, needlessly long and devoid of any exciting plot, full of filler exposition, and perpetuating ridiculous ideas about the roles of male and female love interests. Shame that such a dreck gets such a lovely cover. 1 star.
An interesting thing I observed (something I haven't seen on Goodreads yet): when I try to look up the quotes for this book, that's what I see:

Quotes Not Available
Deborah Harkness has requested that her work not be excerpted or shared on Goodreads. We are complying with her request and have removed all her quotes. To see the DMCA takedown, please click here.

I wonder if the slew of negative reviews is in any way responsible for this silliness.
Profile Image for Jenne.
1,086 reviews663 followers
December 4, 2013
okay, so the good things: I liked the world/mythology/etc, and was amused by the Anne Rice reference! And I also liked the subtle pro-gay marriage message.
It could have actually been a lot of fun except for the romance part, which went like this: (SPOILERS!)

Diana: I am exceptionally good at being a historian of science, and I even have a job at Yale! I am also a witch, but I don't use my powers. Much.
Gosh this mysterious manuscript sure is mysterious!


Diana: Um, okay?


Diana: I guess so. I could do that after I go rowing and then run several miles.


Diana: Oh well, I'm sure it's fine.


Diana: Hey, for serious you can't just tell me what to do all the time.


Diana: Oh, right! Silly me. So wilful. Anyway, should we have sex now?



Housekeeper: Oh hi, here is some herbal tea! Make sure to drink it every day, and DON'T MAKE ANY MISTAKES WHEN YOU BREW IT. Um, because it might taste bad, not that it's having any effect on you without your knowledge. OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

Diana: Gosh, thanks! Everyone is so nice here.


Diana: I love you!



Diana: I feel our souls are as one! These few short weeks have shown me that you are my one true love!


Diana: Actually you did not mention that. But does this mean we can have sex?



Diana: What


Diana: Yeah except my powers are all repressed, anyway I'm just going to go outside for a second and I'm sure I won't get kidnapped and tortured or anything.


Matthew's mom and housekeeper: Wow, calm down.


Diana: Yay, I learned to fly! I <3 you Matthew!! I am so lucky to be your bride! Let's go visit my aunt in America. Did I tell you I'm from America?
Anyway, let's have some sex! Woo!


Aunt: Why are you drinking contraceptive tea?

Diana: I have no idea. Not because of all the sex I'm having, that's for sure.


Diana: Never mind, we have to go to the past and do something about that mysterious manuscript. Did I mention I loooove you!!!?!?!?


Diana: I see. So is that why we can't have sex?



Diana: I love you!

Profile Image for Sasha Alsberg.
Author 8 books66.8k followers
February 12, 2017
Sorry Bronze Horseman, A Discovery of Witches has taken the #2 spot for my favorite book <3
Profile Image for Anne.
3,918 reviews69.3k followers
November 20, 2021
2.5 stars

Hmmm. At first, I really thought this was going to be at least a 4 star book. It was interesting and full of detail!


Then suddenly, it wasn't.
Wasn't interesting, that is. Oh, it was still full of detail, don't worry.
Details about how they appreciatively sniffed wine.


Details about different kinds of tea.


Details about the layouts of old buildings.
Details about rugs and furniture.


And just when I started to think I couldn't take it anymore...MORE WINE AND TEA!



Yes, yes! I get it! She likes tea! He likes wine! After 400 pages I don't give a shit what it smelled like! Enough already!


*deep breath*

Toward the end, the story picked up a bit and started moving forward again. But it was too little, too late. Wait. Let me rephrase that, it was too much, too late. Suddenly there were huge info dumps, which would have been great had they been spaced out over the entire book. Everything that should have been happening/discovered/talked about in the middle of the book ('cause it was tea time!) was crunched into the last part of the story.


It looks like this is a trilogy, but I seriously doubt I'm going to attempt to read any more of these. It looks like the author did a lot of research to bring this book to life, but it just wasn't for me.


I'd recommend this to someone who enjoys slow-paced books with a lot of attention to detail.
Profile Image for kari.
848 reviews
April 25, 2011
THIS IS ACTUALLY ZERO stars, but it won't be listed if I put zero, so, just so you know - ZERO!.
I thought this was going to be a really entertaining read, but I'm giving up. The main character makes no sense, whatsoever. We're told that she isn't able to do magic and then she does magic. Huh???
And then we have the vampire sneaking in her window and watching her sleep, fascinated by her sleeping. Where have I read this before? Let's see....... can anyone think of where they might have read this? Anyone?
I don't care that she glows when she sleeps. I already know it's because it's linked to her ignoring her magic or because it's trapped inside her or because she's simply too cheap to buy a nightlight(yes, I made that last one up), but I'm not really intrigued enough to find out.
What I've learned thus far is that the author is very proud of her knowledge of Oxford and the library there. I could have used far less information about walking around the town, where she goes rowing, where she's sitting in the library for gosh sakes and other unimportant minutiae.
I got this book before it was listed as part of a trilogy.
BEWARE, series alert.
I might have found the energy to finish this one off, but I can't imagine reading three books like this one. Nope, not gonna do it.
Fifty pages. That's it. Thank you and good night!

Had to create a brand new shelf for this one: "books-i-choose-not-to-finish"

On the positive side, I'VE DONE IT! I've actually stopped reading a book that I felt was a waste of time. I didn't think I would, but I did it. (Yes, I know it's a small thing to celebrate, but I'm going to do my happy dance anyway!)
Profile Image for Arni Vidar Bjorgvinsson.
159 reviews33 followers
August 16, 2019
It's quite difficult to gather my thoughts well enough to manage a review. I don't know how or where to begin.

I started this book 4 evenings ago, and all I really knew about it was that it was a Witches and Vampires book. Fine, I'll give that a go. As the pages wore on, however, I realized that I was barely making any headway on the % counter. Upon checking, I then found that this book is almost 800 pages long, which is more than almost all of my fantasy DTB's. Wow.

I started reading this book just after midnight, thinking I might see how it started before I got some sleep. I think it was somewhere around the 3-5% mark that I noticed that even though I was tired I did not want to stop reading. So not stop is what I did.... I just kept on reading for 7 hours straight, until my alarm went off and tried to wake me. Oops, I'd forgotten to sleep...

It has been a very long time since I have read a book that so captivated me and enthralled me. From those early 3-5% it just starts building and building and grabbing a hold of you, refusing to let go.
I've read the book, now, in four long sittings, and the only reason I didn't read it all in one sitting is because my body couldn't handle it and I needed to work.

I will not go too much into the actual contents of the book, since experiencing it all was a pleasure I wish all of you to experience unblemished by my spoilers.
That being said, this is a paranormal romance story, which should on it's own turn me flying as fast and far away as I could muster my body, but it is so beautifully crafted and the romance is so 'mild', that it wasn't a bother at all. Quite to the contrary, the romance is the glue that keeps the story going.

There are some faults with the book, for sure, but it's still such an excellent book that the good outweighs the bad :)
Profile Image for Jilly.
343 reviews
September 2, 2022
HOLY. FREAKING. CRAP. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I just finished this book last night, and I was blown away by it. This is easily going to be the best book that I will read this year, and is going in my top 10 list of best fiction books of all time! Excellent fiction is not always easy to come by. I don't mind mediocre reads from time to time, but it is SO GREAT to be totally stunned by an indescribably excellent book every once in awhile!

For one thing, this book is so well-written. The author has a beautiful way with words, and her descriptions are eloquent and lovely. There was a seamless flow to this book that was exquisite. Nothing was choppy or out of place; the rhythm, pacing, and phrases used flowed so effortlessly that I was never distracted by the writing or the language (as sometimes happens in fiction). Because of this, I was able to get completely lost in this world; and boy was I! "Spellbound" is the only proper way to describe it.

Also, the characters were strong and interesting. Knowing that this is the first in what is supposed to be a trilogy, you get a good base understanding of the main and supporting characters with the full knowledge that a deeper relationship with them will come as the story continues to unfold.

I have read a few reviews that say the beginning of this book is boring; I did not find it so. I was instantly mesmerized and drawn in. I knew that the author was setting the stage for all that was to come, and while it may seem slow at first, you will be very grateful as you continue in the book. Once I got into the "thick" of things, I was grateful to have waded through the beginning, as it gave me a strong foundation for all of the character developments and plot twists that arose throughout the story.

MY ONLY COMPLAINT: Now I have to wait for the next book! However will I do that?!?! I tend to get very emotionally involved with books and characters that I love; I already miss spending time with these characters and I am desperate to continue living in their magical world! Dear Ms. Harkness, I am under your spell, please put me out of my misery and publish the next installment soon!!!!

June 30, 2018 UPDATE: Since I first read this book and posted the above review, I have read the book 23 times. I literally NEVER get tired of it!

September 24, 2018 UPDATE: Finished my 24th re-read.

July 28, 2019 UPDATE: Finished my 25th re-read.

November 27, 2019 UPDATE: Finished my 26th re-read.

March 24, 2020 (beginning 27th re-read)

July 9, 2020 (finished 27th re-read)

October 31, 2021 (finished 28th re-read)

September 1, 2022: finished 29th re-read
Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews315 followers
February 6, 2014
In A Discovery of Witches, we clueless humans have no idea that we share our world with witches, vampires and daemons (creatures whose manic bursts of creativity result in some of the world's greatest artistic works). Isn't that exciting? One would certainly think so. So, what kind of shenanigans does this preternatural lot get up to while we live our ordinary lives?

Well . . .

Behold the books that shall be read! Thrill to the revelation that trips to the library will be made time and time again! Gasp as cups of warm tea are made and consumed! Swoon as vampires are repeatedly described as smelling of baked goods! And grip the edge of your seat for the most bizarre yoga-scene in the history of the written word!

That's right, folks. Vampires, witches, and daemons aren't like you and me--in fact, our lives are infinitely more interesting than theirs.

Seriously, what the hell is this? The best I can tell is that it's Twilight for grown-ups. And I can't believe I'm going to say this, but here it goes: Twilight is better. Suddenly vampires playing baseball during thunderstorms seems down right genius compared to vampires attending a supernatural yoga class. You want to drain all the sex appeal right out of your vampiric leading man? Just mention him doing some peculiar yoga move where he seems to be holding himself up vertically from the floor by nothing but his ear.

And then prattle on about how he's cold. And always has his hands stuffed in his charcoal trousers. And gets ridiculously enraged every time someone mentions blood because . . . he . . . might . . . not . . . be . . . able . . . to . . . control . . . himself (despite living a relatively normal life around humans for 1,500 years and seeming to need little in the way of sanguine sustenance). And how he maintains control of himself by always grasping the talisman he wears beneath his some-shade-of-grey sweater. And then have him ply the witch he is inexplicably drawn to with hundreds of bottles of wine and query her as to what every single one tastes like.

Oh, ho! And the witch! Now there's a live wire! Diana Bishop spends her days running, rowing, yoga-ing (?), and reading. Oh, and never using her magic because she wants to be just like us. Well, actually, she does use her magic every now and then, but only when it's really important. Like fixing her washing machine or getting a book off of a really high shelf. But other than that, it's all ixnay on the magic-ay.

At 200 pages in, I decided I couldn't stomach it any more. After all, up to that point, I had already been treated to a baker's dozen of the same basic scene:

--Diana goes to the library

--creatures are there; they pretend to read so they can watch her read all day, but they do so in a really creeptastic and menacing way, man

--Matthew, the vampire, goes to the library and pretends to read so he can watch them watching her watch a book and protect her in case one decides to, oh, I don't know, nick her with a really nasty papercut or something

--Diana and Matthew later go and consume a meal and beverages and talk ad nauseum about food to the point where an epicurean would offer them both a hot cuppa shut the fuck up

--Matthew will get angry with Diana, she'll apologize, and he'll settle his ass down

Round and round they go, where do they stop? Nobody knows! Oh, wait. I do! At the library! It's like freaking Groundhog Day without Bill Murray. And Groundhog Day ain't shit without Bill Murray. And neither is A Discovery of Witches.

When I decided I had a life to live, Matthew was fervently explaining how daemons, witches, and vampires might be going extinct!

To which I can only ask, so what's the problem?

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
Profile Image for Kinga.
476 reviews2,197 followers
October 2, 2018
Well, this was the dumbest shit I’ve read in quite a while.

I picked it up thinking it would be some good escapist fantasy book with some romance thrown in but it turned out to be Twilight meets Instagram. We had some vampires, demons, and witches but they never did anything remotely interesting. It was all about yoga, fitness routines, early morning runs, elaborate and photogenic meals, wine drunk in old chateaus, cosy interiors and, I swear to you, there was a scene where the heroine drew her knees up and held a mug of hot beverage with both hands. This is something you only ever do if are posing for Instagram or pretending you’re in the Marks&Spencer Christmas ad.

There were 600 pages of this nonsense and whatever action or danger did occur it was swiftly dealt within 5 pages so we could go back to characters having some idiotic conversations where they constantly quibbled over nothing in particular. The narrative switches between the first person from the heroine’s point of view and the omniscient third person to explain all the things the heroine couldn’t know about. The whole thing is very lazily executed and there is no change in the voice at all, so I constantly had to keep checking which narrative it is when I thought the heroine fainted but somehow she is still talking.

When our witch heroine met the vampire hero she still had brains and I was hoping she would put an end to his brand of romance which included gaslighting the heroine, controlling her every move, ordering her about, infantilising her and all the other techniques overbearing assholes like him like to employ. It would be like Twilight The Remix. Sadly it was just Twilight The Extended Cut. Diana quickly lost all the brains that she had and also seemingly some of her size. When we meet her she is a tall and athletic woman, but as soon as she falls in love with Matthew she becomes pocket-sized. He constantly scoops her up and carries her about (in his pocket I assume). Every now and then she tries rebel against his constant ordering her about but it’s always presented like a silly childish tantrum and we are to assume she is being foolish for protesting such thoughtful commands.

Due to his vampire abilities Matthew knows everything about her – when she is sleepy, tired, hungry, when she is on her period. And he orders her to sleep, eat etc. Because in her twenty odd years she clearly hasn’t mastered dealing with basic body functions. That fucking guy even buys her birth control pills and orders her to take them, even tells her what day she should take them (he does know those things better, of course). And check this, he also refuses to have sex with her for no fucking reason whatsoever. Here, honey , take loads of hormones with a bunch of side effects, because who knows how powerful my seed is, maybe I can impregnate you just by thinking about it. What in the puritanical hell is that? And that is AFTER they were married, which brings me to the clusterfuck that was their ‘wedding’ (?). What happened was he went on some trip, came back, kissed her and told her he loved her. She is like ‘cool beans’. And then he says: “oh, by the way, in the vampire culture that thing means we are now married and mated for life”.

Is she mad as fuck that dude tricked her into marrying him, literally married her without even asking if this is something she might be interested in? No, of course not, that’s not weird and creepy at all. Supa romantic. That halfwit of a heroine embraces it and goes on to call all the people he has turned into vampires over the years, some of whom are a few centuries old, “OUR children”. She literally met that dude a few weeks before and now she is calling his three-hundred-year-old “son” – MY son. Sure, go hard or go home.

Also, another thing we are supposed to find romantic is that whole alpha-maleness and ‘pack animal behaviour’. All the men never stop acting idiotically protective over “their women” and growl at each other for no logical reason. It is supposed to show us they are all alpha males fighting for dominance. Wow. How exciting. You’re basically dating a German shepherd. We are told that Matthew the vampire is endlessly brilliant and eternally patient, but he acts neither. He withholds information from the heroine for no reason other than to be controlling, he acts rashly, he can barely control his anger fits and basically has an emotional complexity of a fighting dog. Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man.

Oh, and did I mention all the characters smell of flowers, spices and minerals that no mammal has any business smelling of? And why is a man smelling of cloves and cinnamon sexy? Are we supposed to shag him or sprinkle him over a latte?

AND ALSO. Tiny bit of advice from me for Diana – if someone gives you a bunch of ingredients and very strict instructions how to make them into some tea, and tells you to make it exactly like that every day, and drink it at the same time every day, then maybe don’t it because it’s hella fishy. Or at least, I don’t know, ask why, you absolute nincompoop!

I am not reading another instalment of this bloated abomination. I heard the characters are going back in time. They should go back to the Middle Ages where they belong and then die from the plague.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,583 reviews398 followers
December 4, 2013
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Dr. Diana Bishop, descendant of the famous Bridget Bishop of Salem, Massachusetts, turned her back on her natural powers after her parents were killed when she was a child. Instead, she relied on her brain power, went to Oxford and Yale, and became a well-known researcher in the field of history of science. Now she’s back at Oxford, spending the year studying old alchemical texts archived at the Bodleian Library. But when she calls the book known as Ashmole 782 from the stacks, she can feel its power and she can see hidden writing moving on its pages. It frightens her a bit and she notices that soon after returning it to the stacks, she’s attracted the attention of many creatures — vampires, daemons, and other witches — who are suddenly hanging around the Bodleian. One vampire in particular, Matthew Clairmont, an attractive professor of biochemistry and neuroscience, just won’t leave her alone. What is so special about Ashmole 782 and why are all these creatures hoping she’ll call it back?

After reading the blurbs about A Discovery of Witches, this was a book I was eagerly waiting for. I love academic settings (especially Oxford), old libraries, and the blend of history and science. And I did enjoy much of A Discovery of Witches for this reason. Diana Bishop is an urban fantasy heroine that I can relate to. She spends her time in libraries instead of tattoo parlors; she prepares lectures and writes letters of recommendation instead of training with weapons and kicking peoples’ butts. I understood her goals and interests and the way that her focus on academic pursuits makes her slightly awkward and absent-minded elsewhere. I was also much intrigued by Matthew Clairmont’s genetic research into the evolution of witches, vampires, and daemons and how this related to Diana’s research in alchemy.

Thus, A Discovery of Witches had a lot of potential for me, but there were three problems that sapped my enjoyment:

The first is that the book is simply way too long. With nearly 600 pages to work with, Deborah Harkness should have been able to get these interesting ideas farther off the ground. I was frustrated that, by the end, it had become clear that A Discovery of Witches is the first novel in a series. In this first installment, Harkness carefully develops the characters and sets up the romance. There is a lot of sitting in the library, hanging around various houses, talking, drinking tea, and eating. The story covers only about a month of time and I think I witnessed nearly everything Diana ate and drank during that month.

Secondly — and this is a common problem for me in urban fantasies — I couldn’t appreciate the romance which dominated the plot. Vampires are just not sexy to me and I had a hard time believing that an overprotective, angry, admittedly murderous vampire would be attractive to an independently-minded academic. Not to mention that his body is cold and his heart beats only rarely. He spends a lot of time growling, bossing her around, speaking roughly, giving everyone dark looks, and displaying mate-guarding behaviors — steering her around by her elbow and with his hand at the small of her back, hovering over her, blocking her path, pushing her up against barriers, “scooping” her up, tossing her on horses, grabbing her by the chin and twisting her neck, telling her she’ll catch cold if she sits on the ground (a guy who sequences DNA thinks that sitting on the ground will make her sick?). He even binds her with an oath without her permission. I find this kind of behavior in a courting male insufferable. This is a common problem for me, and one of the reasons I don’t read much vampire lit, but I wasn’t expecting to encounter this issue in such magnitude in a book about a famous researcher from Oxford and Yale. I know she’s scared of what’s going on in her life, but where is this woman’s self-respect? In some ways, A Discovery of Witches felt like Twilight for middle-aged academics. The most unbelievable part of the entire romance, though is that [removed spoiler — Read it here.]

Thirdly, there are a lot of minor plot issues that just don’t fit into a well-developed fantasy, especially once we leave the academic atmosphere of Oxford and the book starts to feel like Harry Potter. Magic in this world seems arbitrary. We’re told that each power has a genetic marker, which is cool, but its practice is not sufficiently explained. It’s the snap-your-fingers-to-clean-the-dishes, close-your-eyes-and-concentrate-to-fly type. Sparks fly from Diana’s fingers, she cries rivers of tears, witchfire bursts from her outstretched arm. She is suddenly accumulating a host of new skills that make her the most powerful witch alive, but she doesn’t respond with the awe we’d expect. When she finds out that she can time-travel, she practically shrugs it off (and the physics of time-travel don’t even try to make sense).

I truly enjoyed the first part of A Discovery of Witches — the relatable heroine, the university setting, the focus on the history of science. But once the romance got going and we left Oxford, A Discovery of Witches lost its charm. I’m still curious about the blend of genetics, evolution, and alchemy, but the long sick romance dominated this intriguing mystery and the plot could not hold up against it. I may take a look at the sequel, though, just because I really want to know what’s inside Ashmole 782.

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,706 followers
September 6, 2017
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

This book.

Have you ever liked something almost against your will? Something that encompasses roughly half of the things you hate in reference to said thing? Something that makes you scratch your head in wonder, b/c you can’t figure out why on earth you aren’t terribly bothered by those detested things in this situation?

Welcome to my life.

This book has:

1. What can be construed as insta-love. Matthew and Diana are drawn to each other from the moment they meet, BUT it’s so subtle that you aren’t sure that’s what is happening. And that’s probably why it gets a pass.

I never really thought about it (before this book forced me too), but it’s the things that insta-love seems to be comprised of, rather than the insta-love itself, that I take issue with—fluttery eyelashes, wild proclamations of ardent, enduring (but wholly untried) love, and the accompanying false sense of urgency. P-U-K-E. Get a room, already. And preferably AFTER the inevitable danger has passed.

But none of those things are an issue here. By the time it becomes obvious that, yes, these two feel more for each other than trepidation and annoyance, enough time has elapsed to almost warrant the depth of emotion, and the rest can be chalked up to fate, animal instinct, mating imperative, etc.

2. A super, special snowflake who denies her super, special snowflakeness. Not only is Diana the last in a powerful line of matriarchal witches, her father was a powerful warlock in his own right. So powerful that a union between her mother and father was strongly discouraged by the powers that be. Mom and Dad said, “Screw you, hippies!” and Diana was the result. But when her parents were killed when Diana was seven, she assumes their deaths were the result of their abilities and refuses to have anything to do with magic.

B/c that always works out so well. *sighs*

But again, it gets a pass. Diana is being just as ridiculous as every MC who tries to ignore their gifts, but this time you can’t help but be sympathetic. She’s not being obstinate simply to be a pain in the arse. She understandably believes that nothing good can come from using magic, so she’s not going to do it. And that’s not the only reason it gets a pass, but I can’t tell you the other one. Suffice it to say, there’s a darn good reason Diana isn’t using magic, and that reason is not even remotely her fault.

3. Super, secret information withholding. And this is perhaps the one I have the hardest time with. I cannot stand it when someone in a position of authority, older, more experienced, etc. unilaterally decides who gets to know what. HATE it.<——I’m audibly grinding my teeth right now.

But Matthew . . . it’s kind of the same thing that happens when I read historical romance. Am I overly fond of a woman’s only option being to marry and marry well, have children, keep house? NO. I’m NOT. But that’s the way things were, and getting mad about it isn’t going to change anything, and besides, Dukes are HAWT.

So is Matthew. AND he’s a 1500 year old vampire, so he kind falls under that same umbrella, and really, he means well. I got frustrated with him a few times, but it was obvious that he was trying, and I imagine it’d be pretty darn hard to attempt major behavior modifications to habits 1500 years in the making. So yeah. Yet another pass.

The good news is that having talked it out, I’m no longer banging my head against a wall. I now know why I like this book despite the major book peeves lurking around every corner. And besides those peeves getting passes, A Discovery of Witches is just entertaining. It might have taken me awhile to like Diana, but I instantly respected her, and I was as gone for Matthew as she was the moment he showed up. In the LIBRARY. At OXFORD.

Lots of bookish fun in this book.

Also—while I have no complaints about the pacing in the front 75% of the book, the last 25% is just riveting. The second that Matthew and Diana show up at her childhood home, I could not put the book down. The house is sentient and highly opinionated. It’s also full of the ghosts of Bishops past, also opinionated. A couple of new secondaries show up, one of which is absolutely darling. GAH. This book is awesome, just read it. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,645 reviews5,102 followers
November 14, 2011
my gosh, i really wanted to like this one. it looks good. it is nice and big and so i imagined getting lost with it for days. the subject matter is enticing. even the cover looks appealing - elegant and mysterious and sorta bold. but unfortunately this book is just a big, perpetually flaccid penis. it looks good, like it could be a fun time, but nothing is happening, it's limp, it's useless.

hmmm, where do i even start? this was an experience where a lot of bored sighs found life. i got about halfway through and just gave up, because:

- this is a thin little Urban Fantasy & Romance that has been tricked up to be a kind of literary romantic horror novel. i shouldn't have believed the hype, its comparisons to other recent "literary horror" novels like The Passage or Zone One. it is nothing like those two. now i don't mind little Urban Fantasy & Romance novels. but please, promotional team for Discovery, don't front. don't make this novel out to be what it clearly is not.

- the repetitive scenes were abysmally boring in their, well, repetitiveness. how many fuckin times do i have to read about our tedious heroine going to the library and finding that a bunch of preternaturals are stalking her? apparently a dozen or so times. i kid you not, the sheer number of these scenes were ridiculous, they verged on being a kind of Comedy of the Absurd. Harkness, were you being paid by the word or something?

- the trials and tribulations of our heroine and her paramour were a snorefest. oh poor angsty wittle witch doesn't want to be a witch, she just wants to be a regular human! boo hoo hoo! oh poor angsty wittle vampire has such mixed feelings about having mixed feelings for the wittle witch. boo hoo hoo! what hard lives these preternaturals have! i'm not sure i've seen witches & vampires portrayed in such a boring fasion... i got more thrills from the silly Beautiful Darkness series. c'mon Harkness, where's the nuance? where's the adventure? for chrissakes, even the romance sucked. BORED NOW.

i tried to like this one, i really tried. i tried looking at it from different angles, i tried to come at it at different times - perhaps it was my mood, right? i focused on the fact that this was such a nice, big novel... surely it must eventually get good, if i was patient and understanding. surely it would harden into something that could give me at least a little bit of excitment. but nope, it remained flaccid and i just had to give up on it. there are a lot of other big books out there for me to enjoy.

Profile Image for Sarah Kelsey.
338 reviews15 followers
March 4, 2011
Well well, Mary Sue, Mary Sue, Mary Sue. I haven't encountered you for a few books. Now I know where you've been keeping yourself.
Updated: March 3, 2011.

I struggled to finish this novel. The book started out so well with an interesting protagonist, a bibliophile's dream setting, and wonderful descriptions of illustrated manuscripts. The plot tugs at the small thread of 'paranormalcy' in the protagonist's life, and everything goes south from there. Literally south. They leave England and go to France, and nothing good ever seems to happen in France. Why does she go to France? One might well wonder. It's because her wine connoisseur, yoga master, Oxford fellow, French and vampire boyfriend takes her there. Edward- er, I mean Matthew becomes her very protective vampire husband and, in spite of the fact that his list of superlative credentials continues to grow, this superman's top priority seems to be feeding her and giving her foot massages. Apparently he has nothing better to do. Ah, ladies, what an impossible standard we set for our heroes. Please remember that next time you cuss out a model for being too skinny.

My biggest problem with this story isn't the love interest, though he's pretty difficult to stomach; it's the conflict development around the protagonist. Diana, our heroine, suddenly gets what amounts to unlimited power about halfway into the book, power which she sometimes uses and some times does not. Why? This is not clear. The weak explanation for this is that she is panicked on some occasions and uncertain on others. This contrasts jarringly with the fact that Superman continually tells her how brave and decisive she is, and she does occasionally act bravely and decisively. She seems to have sudden attacks of damsel-in-distress, an affliction which does not follow from her other behaviors or her internal monologue. It's understandable why the author has to do this; she's made her protagonist omnipotent. Without these character anomalies, the text has no conflict and the plot is broken. However, with these anomalies, the main character is broken. This book is fundamentally flawed.

What I did love about this book were the descriptions of the texts and the settings. The author does a lovely job bringing to life the various settings and props of her story. The text suggest that quite a substantial amount of research provides the foundation for this story, and I hope that's true. Not being a scholar of medieval manuscripts, I don't know. Nothing stood out as a glaring error to me, and what little bit I did recognize meshed with what I knew.

The book is clearly set up for a sequel, probably a trilogy. In future installments I hope the author puts some limits and rules on the protagonist's power, especially if they explain some of her erratic choices in the first novel. It's too late to fix the saccharine plasticity of the protagonist and her man, but perhaps this is targeting just romance readers who are used to slapping Edward Cullen's romantic perfection onto Fabio's physique and sliding a couple of PhD's and a stock portfolio into his back pocket. It could have been so much more than that.

I would certainly consider reading a Harkness book again. It's obvious from this book that the woman knows how to write. I'd just prefer a little less perfection in the central characters.

Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
November 17, 2021
Hey, I have a booktube channel (youtube for book reviews) and I do video reviews for books like this one, epic fantasy, science fiction, media related to them, and more. Please subscribe here!

I tried really hard, but wow this book was boring. I think it reminded me way too much of The Historian, which was the biggest waste of 900+ pages I've ever read. I think it's because I've done way too much academic research in my 20 years of schooling to ever find it remotely entertaining.

I think the part where the witches, vampires, demons, etc. do yoga together pretty much killed it for me.

(Okay, it's probably more of a calm indifference, but had I wasted any more time this would be more fitting.)
Profile Image for High Lady of The Night Court.
135 reviews5,057 followers
February 3, 2019
"It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches."

This trilogy is like no other paranormal book I’ve ever read. The world is huge and the author not only takes us around the world but also tells us about its history through the Book of Life. The protagonist of the story has distanced herself from her magic and any other supernatural concept in the world after she lost her parents as a child. The protagonist’s lack of knowledge allows the reader to learn everything about this mystical world gradually and I loved that facts about the world weren’t just dropped here and there randomly in an attempt to make the reader understand whats going on.

The protagonist, Diana Bishop, is one of the Bishop witches, a very well known family of witches. But ever since she was a child Diana could never cast a proper spell and her powers never seemed to have truly manifested. Since her parents’ death Diana has made it a point to live a human life with the barest hint of magic in it. She is a history professor, a scholar, who has won quite a few awards, and is now dabbling in alchemy.
One day, Diana Bishop calls a magic book, Ashmole 782, from the Bodleian library, not knowing its significance. In a futile attempt to avoid the magical world she sends the book back, but she doesn’t realise that the second the book opened for her there was no turning back.

The book, Ashmole 782, also known as the Book of Origins is coveted by all 3 magical and supernatural species. Witches, vampires, and daemons have all lived lives separate from each other unbeknownst to humans who live in blissful ignorance. Whenever two or more of their kind are around humans they tend to draw attention but human disbelief covers it up. Once the book of life was called witches, vampires, and daemons are following Diana to figure out how she called on a book no one has seen for centuries and each of them want to make it their own with a desperate need to make it to the top of the food chain.

And as always we have the cliche paranormal forbidden romance, but I enjoyed it all the same. I feel like at this point there is so much literature out in the world that no matter what you write it will end up being at least slightly cliche in reference to something else. Anyways, in this book Diana meets Matthew de Clairmont one of the most powerful vampires alive (or should I say dead) after she finds Ashmole 782. Matthew, like the others, wants to know the contents of the book of life, but not to destroy another species but to find out how to protect them all from extinction as they seem to be getting weaker by every generation. Putting aside the, again cliche, vampire possessiveness, Matthew is a pretty great guy, easy on the eyes, and his character mixes with diana’s very well.

I’m writing this review after reading all three books, don’t worry there are no spoilers, and can confidently say that every single character introduced throughout the trilogy plays off of the other characters amazingly and they each have a role of their own. Even the humans introduced in this books and later play a great role in the overall plot. I loved that even though it is a paranormal series the author ignore the human, and technological, aspect of the world and incorporated it in the perfect way.

The de Clermont family hierarchy s fascinating and just gets more interesting and complex through the series. The characteristics of vampire and their habits is explained well and slightly hilarious as the protagonist knows about as much as we do. There is one sentence in the third book that really cracked me up. If you don’t want to know I’m putting it under spoilers below this sentence.

I well aware that I’m reviewing the first book but I must say the third book is my favorite among the three but I figured I might as well provide some incentive to start and/or end this series if you’re not one of the hundred thousand people who have read it.
The first book acts a great introduction to a huge plot behind the scenes and is concluded fabulously in the third book. The characters each have unique personalities and draw out different sides in each other. The story is put down very well and I had a great time making my way through it despite all the new releases vying for my attention.

For any of you haven’t read this book yet, vampires don’t sparkle, witches don’t boil babies, and daemons are not demons or the daemons from Phillip Pullman’s His dark Materials. If you’re planning on reading this book, I hope you have a great time.
Profile Image for carol..
1,536 reviews7,875 followers
June 2, 2018
Redeemed only through a nice use of language.

Initial assessment: Harlequin romance meets Twilight. Most irritating similarity to Twilight: they discover all sorts of ways to be physically intimate without intercourse. Annoyingest magical quality: a witch that claims she doesn't want to use her powers and has spent yeeeears attempting to ignore her powers, "slips up" and uses said powers to get a book that's out of reach on a high shelf. Yes, that's how strong her moral determination is--looking for a ladder trumps principle.

Stereotypes annoy me, and A Discovery of Witches is full of romantic stereotypes. If it starts to feel like you've read it before, it's because you have. Bookish orphaned heroine meets dark, brooding man. Initially annoyed by his arrogance, she segues quickly into accommodation, and then lust. Brooding man finds his thoughts preoccupied with her quiet beauty, with something noticeably sparkly about her, and briefly runs away from their building relationship to come to terms with his past. Heroine and hero reunite, enjoy brief interlude, attend the most snort-worthy yoga class ever described in literature, then unite to defend their love against others. We are supposed to rave because it's a vampire and witch, and somehow that makes it all different. Except more than being vampire and witch, they are really doctor-geneticist and historian. I ended up skimming last half of the book just because my book OCD can't stand not knowing the end to a plot.

My favorite review on this was done by Amanda:
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,972 followers
December 16, 2017
Re-Read 12/15/17:

Beyond what I said in my original review, I really enjoyed all the interwoven devices that carry all the way through all three books. I knew I'd enjoy a re-read even as I finished the third book since there are so many great historical details as well as more developed characters, later on, but I think I may have enjoyed this novel more this time around purely for its own sake.

Just knowing what happens at the end and where Diana winds up is good enough to chortle over, all by itself. :) The next is pure historical fiction, of course. :) What a delight!

Original Review:

What a surprising find. Sure, I expected a decent urban fantasy, but I hadn't expected a tome redolent of history, alchemy, and even Templar conspiracies. In retrospect, I wish that all urban fantasy novels had more history and alchemy and Templar conspiracies. The past is rich and full of just as much intrigue as anything we've got today, after all, and denying the fact won't make so many modern novels better.

It's true that I expected a novel with a scholarly feel, and it's equally true that I expected a witch with equal parts frailty and overpowered magic, but unlike a number of completely unfair reviews, I didn't have a problem with characters that displayed actual human complexities. The overpowered magic was nothing of the sort. I saw a novel-long setup and decent foreshadowing.

The time in the novel is ripe for a big change, and I love the story's fearlessness. I'm fully invested in each and every character that has shown up and feel how alive they are. The novel deserves high praise much thought. At this point, I'm pretty sure we're seeing the (re)birth of a goddess, and the ride is as important as the destination. The writing is so finely honed that I have no problems at all with the introduction of new power and new twists because even at the very beginning there were finely woven threads that reinforced all revelations.

I can't wait to read the next two.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,171 reviews98.2k followers
October 12, 2017
Let me preface this review with me saying that this is my personal opinion. I know this book is very beloved by very many, and that’s awesome. Nothing makes me happier than books making people happy, and if A Discovery of Witches is your favorite book, than I am truly happy for you. Unfortunately, this book just didn’t work for me.

Nothing offended me or anything like that, this book was just ungodly boring. I mean, there is a very alpha vampire in here that marks his territory and claims what he thinks is his, but, I mean, that’s just sort of expected in paranormal romance books about vampires, so it wasn’t anything that bothered me.

A Discovery of Witches is sort of like an adult Twilight. Our main protagonist, Diana, is a historian who is studying at the Bodleian Library, and she is also a witch from a very pure bloodline, but she doesn’t practice her witchcraft because of a dark event that happened to her parents. And the book starts when Diana touches a book unlike any other she has ever touched before.

And while studying in Oxford, Diana’s path crosses with Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist, who is immediately drawn to Diana. And together, they try to unlock the clues that will tell them about the book that Diana touched that was unlike any other.

At first, I loved the atmosphere. Oxford, libraries, foggy autumn mornings. I mean, who could resist that? But then, I realized I was 50% into a 600+ page book and it was just finally getting started. And this was just a chore to read. Like, if I wasn’t buddy reading this, I would have for sure DNFed it.

Because nothing happens! And I love slow, character driven stories, but in my personal opinion, don’t even think this is a character driven book. I mean, Diana sure changes characters in the middle of the book, I’ll give you guys that, but this book is just a whole lot of descriptions and not a whole lot of action.

Every time Diana rowed, or rode a horse, or made tea, or made toast, my eyes just rolled farther back in my head. All of these actions are fine, but once you read about them over 100 times your body just wants to self combust. And this isn’t even a slow burn romance, it’s just a slow ass book.

In conclusion, the atmosphere was nice and I like how the time frame synced with Halloween, since I was reading this right before Halloween. I also truly believe the next book in the series will be better, since we finally have a plot now, but I just don’t care enough about Diana or Matthew to read on.

Also, Jenne's Review is one of the best reviews I’ve seen on Goodreads! And it is so damn accurate to the plot of this novel. I loved this review so much I couldn’t not mention it in my own. Treat yourself and read it if you’ve already read A Discovery of Witches (because spoilers) and were also underwhelmed, or if you just want to save yourself the trouble and headache of reading this 600+ book.

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Buddy Read with Paloma
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,828 reviews29k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 12, 2020
DNF @ 181 Pages

I thought I was gonna love this so much that I spent years trolling my favorite used book stores to find excellent quality hardcover copies of the whole series. Meaning: I own the WHOLE series. And seriously wasted my time. Which makes this even more of a bummer.

This was just SOOOOOOO incredibly boring.

I read 181 pages of this...and 150 of that was probably about wine, tea, wine, architecture, tea, Oxford, wine, tea, gross under-cooked food, wine, tea...hey, did I mention there was a lot of waxing poetic about wine and tea?


I saw that mentioned in other people's reviews and just figured they were kinda, sorta joking. But no. No, they were not. And I am sorry for doubting you, friends.

But anyway, I take solace in the fact that I no longer buy entire series before making sure I actually like book one. I also like knowing that, hey, while not my ideal manner, at least I can scratch another three books off my ridiculous physical tbr list AND create some more wiggle room on my shelves.
September 14, 2022
“As far as I can tell there are only two emotions that keep the world spinning year after year...One is fear. The other is desire.” And magic well…. “Magic is fear made real”

And 3 stars for ‘A Discovery of Witches’, a book that offered so much promise but a book that needed more heat from the romance and more fear from the daemon world, and a book that did not ‘be-witch’ me in the end. Unfortunately!!!

The Plot

Diana Bishop is researcher of ancient alchemical manuscripts who unknowingly calls up a buried and ancient manuscript that attracts the attention of every witch, daemon, and vampire in Oxford. Trying to understand its meaning and power she turns to the dazzling and enigmatic Matthew Clairmont for answers.

“His full name is Matthew Gabriel Philippe Bertrand Sebastien de Clermont. He was also a very good Sebastien, and a passable Gabriel. He hates Bertrand and will not answer to Philippe.”

Not surprisingly, they develop a bond that attracts the attention of the Congregation who thrive and survive on divided loyalties and the separation of the daemons. A group of fellow daemons who would stop at nothing to terminate the relationship and uncover the power of the ancient text themselves.

Review and Comments

I loved the writing style and the vivid descriptions of the time and place. I also loved the premise of the ‘witch meets vampire’ which created its own brand of magic – the forbidden kind. A meeting of souls but also a spellbinding mix of sorcery, menace, and danger, as most would oppose the match and no spell could ward off their enemies.

However, what I got was a lot of romance without the excitement, a lot of pages without the spice and a lot of promise that just didn’t deliver that 5-star read I was so desperately wanting. I expected this to be a new Twlight type trilogy different but with the same level of drama, a new series packed with ancient spells, battles between good and evil and a world of witches, daemons, and vampires that would keep you absorbed and captivated and sad to finish this doorstop of a book. However, it felt as though it never got out of third gear when it should have been speeding in fifth.

Some of the sub plots seemed to drag on over pages and pages with little content while other stories and events were over in a flash, that could have been developed much further. With the feeling of things amiss my interest came in waves as I found myself trying to hurry through parts of the book.

So overall some magical parts with a lovely writing style which made this an easy flowing read. However, with the premise I thought I would get the adrenaline rush from a sports car and ended up cruising at a very tame speed in third gear. Don’t drive a sports car if you want a leisurely drive and don’t offer horror and excitement from witchery meets vampire-ology and then leave out the fear. Unfortunately I wasn't bewitched. Good but not brilliant
Profile Image for Anne.
252 reviews11 followers
September 14, 2018
[In the interests of full disclosure, I edited this review in September 2018. Upon reflection, some of my initial comments were a little too fangirl in style and my initial reference to Twilight was being misconstrued or used to make a point.. After many years and quite a few rereadings of this book, my enthusiasm for it has not waned, but I can appreciate why it troubles some readers. I believe one can be a thinking, modern and independent woman and yet still appreciate a male character who possesses the chivalry and courtliness (and, at times, chauvinism) of another time. In many ways, it is the character’s historicity and immortality which makes palatable (and attractive) what would disgust me in a modern man. Instead of judging one another, or casting aspersions on another reader’s feminist credentials, we could simply accept differences in taste.]

Even now, a few weeks later, and when some of the details have become a little fuzzy, I can't stop thinking about this book. I love many different genres of books, but books like this really get me excited; they take me out of myself, to a world that my rational brain tells me doesn't exist, but which my heart whispers could be right under my nose.

I stayed up until after 1am two nights in a row to read more of this book and was even almost late back to work at lunchtime, because I was so completely absorbed in it. I even forwent an evening meal to finish it.

A Discovery of Witches is one of the most enjoyable books that I have read in a very long time and I loved the feeling of being completely submerged in a different life and a different world.

I really liked Diana and admired her verve and athleticism, so different from my own book-worm, sedentary nature. I am also fascinated by the idea of being a historian of science and feel like I was cheated out of the belief that I could be anything as a teenager!

I really enjoyed the way Diana’s relationship with Matthew developed and while I know that there are those who find his behaviour problematic, I didn’t expect him to behave like a guy born in the 21st century, so I wasn’t really bothered by it. I think Diana asserted herself when she needed to - I wasn’t looking for her to make feminist speeches.

Reading this book was so satisfying and I felt that I was getting just the right mix of romance, adventure, history, character development and magic. I don't know how I will contain myself until the release of the next book, as I am quite apprehensive about the "trip" Matthew and Diana embarked upon at the end of the book.

If you have a taste for the supernatural tempered by real life choices and adult dilemmas, then you are in for a treat of the best kind in reading this book.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
33 reviews
June 19, 2012
First of all, I thought this book was fantastic and I CANNOT wait for the second in the series because the ending of the book, I won't give details, has you CONSTANTLY WONDERING and yearning for more.
Though it doesn't beat the Harry Potter series (and nothing ever will), it sure is up there in the running with my favorites. Have I found a new series after Potter? Well, I won't get too carried away, but this book is one of my favorites.

I have only two complaints about this book.
My first complaint is that the beginning/mid-middle was slow, until Matthew came into play, and during select amounts of scientific detail. The more the book went on, the better it got, and the more I couldn't stop reading. I felt like I was in a rut during the middle, but that one thing happened and I kept on trucking, thankfully.
The second is the fact that Diana Bishop, having a P.h.D, seemed immature and naive (during a couple parts of the book). But, I'm sure she will grow as a person throughout the next two books. These complaints are STRICTLY my opinion.

I have read many reviews regarding this book and at some point they irritate me: many readers relate this book to the "Twilight Saga," however, that idea is wonky because the book deals with witches, demons and vampires -- with a history and past intertwining all of them together. Yes, there are some points in the book where the romance seems a bit "Twilight-y." However, that was not the author's intention and I'm sure I just took it that way because I had read Twilight first (the only vampire books I have ever read, and probably the only ones I'll EVER compare other vampire stories to. Sad, I KNOW!).
If you've read Twilight, you may or may not compare the romance to it, but I feel that Diana and Matthew's relationship was far less awkward, more natural, and sweet. I would NOT compare the actual idea and "being" of a Vampire, because Ms. Harkness does an EXCELLENT and far better job at describing a vampire and how they function. I wish Ms. Meyer would have taken some advice from our dear old Deborah.

Moving on from my soap-box, the book was fascinating. The author included so much historic detail that I, a fellow historian, also love and strive to learn about. Her explanations and enormous amounts of detail provided awesome imagery that really helped me read and cherish the book.
I loved it, the characters, and the complete storyline; and until the next book, I will be hanging on by a thin thread.

Thanks for reading! :)
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
April 3, 2016
This could have been a great book.

The series has a lot going for it. The author has achieved a perfect level of magic combined with mystery and academia.

Sounds strange doesn’t it?

But this is very much in a similar vein to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The characters explore libraries (yay libraries!) to gain knowledge about the supernatural. The protagonist comes across a very unusual book, a book of magic. The tension is here very early on, the narrative drive is here very on, though it all goes downhill as the story progresses. She drew me with the enchanting mysteries of magic and books:

“The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable. To an ordinary historian, it would have looked no different from hundreds of other manuscripts in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, ancient and worn. But I knew there was something odd about it from the moment I collected it.”


So we have a solid opening, and a solid plot, but the author goes and fucks it all up with a terrible romance plot and her poorly written characters. The protagonist Diana Bishop is a witch coming out of the magic closet; she also likes to go rowing, which the author tells us at every opportunity. She happens to be a Dr in science history. So, theoretically speaking, she’s a smart woman. She quickly falls in love with a mystery man she meets at the library; he is shrouded in darkness and secrecy. It’s quite a romantic encounter; he appears to be something much more than an ordinary guy. She becomes enamoured with him.

Matthew de Clairmont is an ancient vampire who is also a genetic researcher (amongst other things.) We hear lots about his prowess as a vampire, but never actually see it. I don’t really know what he’s capable if. When there was a chance for him to use his abilities, and demonstrate the strength of vampires in this world, he stands back and does nothing. He becomes a piece of furniture and just watches the action. Diana doesn’t seem to mind though; she sticks with this gaping idiot throughout. She’s not even bothered that he watched her sleep like some creepy sex pest. We later learn that he practices yoga, which just ruins the entire vampire image. How can this guy ever be considered threatening after that? He loses all of the seductive powers of vampirism and enters the realms of weird.

There are some good things about this book. The idea of magic behind a world of fact and academic is great. The protagonist goes on to discover what she is capable of in a tale of magic oozing with possibilities. But, these possibilities are never really fulfilled. It’s all about the romance and her dependency on Matthew. She follows him like a little lost dog, for some reason. I wanted to read about a woman who learns about herself and the world through her own willpower not because of the help of an apparently powerful vampire nerd. This book is quite unique, I’ll give it that. The narrative is not told in entirely simple prose; there are suggestions of academic language, which, I suppose, reflect the nature of investigating the mystery book found at the beginning.

The main success of this book was its ability to keep me reading. Obviously, I had a few problems with it, but I still wanted to know the answers to the mysteries Harkness posed. It kept me in suspense by not revealing what the characters are completely capable of e.g Diana’s powers. I know there is going to be much, much, more. The room for character development and new plots is huge. The next book could go anywhere. And because of that I read it with the hope that the characters would improve and that the mysteries would remain. Without the libraries, mystery and books, this book would have been a complete disaster rather than a partial one.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 22, 2022
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1), Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches is a 2011 historical-fantasy novel and the debut novel by American scholar Deborah Harkness. It follows the story of Diana Bishop, a history of science professor at Yale University who, after accidentally finding an elusive, long-thought-lost manuscript, is compelled to embrace the magic in her blood that she has sought to keep out of her life and engage in a forbidden romance with charming vampire Matthew Clairmont.

When Diana Bishop returns to Oxford university her life is flipped upside down. While researching in the library, Diana collects a book that was thought to be lost. Strange goings-on begin to happen around Diana bringing her witch heritage back into her life. Matthew Clairmont is a vampire who has spent all his undead years looking for that book. When word travels that the book is in Oxford, he races over expecting to see the book but instead he sees her. As the story progresses a romance starts to bloom between the two but danger is also heading their way because the love is forbidden. They begin to run but will they make it?

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و پنجم ماه آوریل سال2019میلادی

عنوان: کشف جادوگران؛ نویسنده: دبورا هارکنس؛ مترجم: سوگند رجبی‌نسب؛ تهران: انتشارات بهنام‏‫، سال1397؛ در سه جلد؛ فروست: سه‌گانه کشف جادوگران؛ کتاب اول؛ شابک9786007132548؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده21م
کشف «جادوگران» عنوان نخستین کتاب، از سه ‌گانه مشهور خیال‌پردازیِ تاریخی با عنوان «تمام ارواح»، از نویسنده و مورخ «آمریکایی»، سرکار خانم «دبورا هارکنز» است، که نخستین بار در سال2011میلادی منتشر گردید؛ در بطن کتابخانه ی «بادلیان دانشگاه آکسفورد»، پژوهشگری جوان به نام «دیانا بیشاب» ناخواسته به کتابی کیمیاگری دست پیدا میکند، که در عین حال جادویی است؛ «دیانا» خود زنی از اصل و نسب جادوگران است، اما به هیچوجه با جادو کاری ندارد؛ او نگاهی اجمالی به کتاب انداخته، و آن را به کتابخانه پس میدهد، اما غافل از اینکه همین عمل به ظاهرکوچک پای «جادوگرها»، «دمن ها»، و «خون آشامها»ی دیگری، از جمله خون آشامی توانمند، و هزار و پانصد ساله را، به ماجرا باز میکند، که آینده و سرنوشت «دیانا» را دیگر میکند؛ موجودات گوناگونی در پی آن کتاب کیمیاگری هستند، که سالها چم شده بود، آنان «دیانا» را وارد ماجراهایی میکنند که استفاده از جادو در آنها، ناممکن است، چرا که او تنها کسی است که میتواند طلسم کتاب را بشکند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 25/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 31/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
21 reviews2 followers
August 17, 2019
A Discovery of a Crappy Book. This book is terrible. Why oh why were the stupid witches discovered. Here is the plot:

Day One.

I went to the library. I am a witch; he is a vampire. I shouldn't love him. But he is so cold and I am so hot for him. I had lunch and did some yoga.

Day Two.

I went to the library. Some people may or may not have been there, and they may or may not have been magical. I am a witch; he is a vampire. I shouldn't love him. But he is so cold and I am so hot for him. I had lunch and did some yoga.

Day Three.

I went to the library. Some people may or may not have been there, and they may or may not have been magical. Today's book glowed when I touched it. I am a witch. He is a vampire. I shouldn't love him. But he is so cold and I am so hot for him. I had lunch and did some yoga.

This is seriously like the first 200 pages of the book. The rest doesn't get any better.
Profile Image for Suzanne (Doppleganger).
159 reviews46 followers
February 16, 2012
A Discovery of Witches is a vampire romance. Let me say that again. A Discovery of Witches is a Vampire Romance.

Oh sure the title mentions ‘witches’ instead of ‘vampires’ or other vampire clichés like blood, darkness, or night. It has witchy symbols on the cover and the synopsis calls it “equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense”. But don’t be deceived, this is a vampire romance.

If you don’t like vampire romances, then this book is not for you.

You say you like vampire romances? So do I! But I’ve got a little more news for you before you decide to read this book.

There’s no boinking in A Discovery of Witches. There is kissing and...enough other stuff to freaking make a reader hopeful. But no boinkage. A Discovery of Witches is a boinkless non-YA vampire romance, which is as rare a creature as the ancient texts Diana studies.

If you need your vampy heroes to get lucky, then this book is not for you.

Still around? Really? Alrighty then, brass tacks.

To my boinkage-loving surprise, I actually enjoyed this book a bunch. I found myself staying up late and jonesing for the 30 minutes of reading time I get during lunch. It is that absorbing.

The first half is an interesting mixture of vampire romance and Dan Brownish academic-searches-for-ancient-treasure-despite-opposition-from-secret-society mystery. I loved the Oxford setting and supernatural creatures. Characters are thoroughly fleshed out with several backstories, I assume as setup for future books in the series. This adds to the page count, but since the backstories are delightful little historical vignettes I enjoyed them nonetheless.
It’s the second half of the book that really drew me in, as it is mostly devoted to the romance. If you’re an emotion junkie like me you’ll have trouble putting the book down after you hit that halfway mark.
However (here is why I believe this book gets so many 1 and 2 star ratings), our Oxford and Yale educated PhD heroine loses IQ points as she falls in love. We’re told constantly how smart, brave, and intimidating she is, but those traits are inadequately demonstrated. It leads to this crap:

“Even putting cups on a tray, you look formidable.” (barf)

The Bishop house saved this book in my eyes. Just as Diana was becoming too much of a ditsy damsel in distress, she arrives at the Bishop house and falls into her element. This is where she worms her way back in to my good graces. All hail the Bishop house! It’s my favorite character, and the most fabulous part of the book. I hear there’s a movie in works, and I will watch it solely to see how they portray the Bishop house.

Despite Diana’s annoying degradation of IQ, reading A Discovery of Witches is an enjoyable experience. I’m looking forward to Book 2 (more Bishop house, please!). 4 stars.

Now I sooo wish I had a way to track how many people stopped reading after “no boinking”!
Profile Image for Sylvain Reynard.
Author 22 books14.3k followers
August 29, 2017
This novel is a masterpiece.
It's tempting to compare it to other works so as to characterize it but to do so would be a disservice.
Prof. Harkness writes well and her story-telling is engaging and suspenseful. She masterfully weaves together history, science, alchemy, illuminated manuscripts, love, sex, war, and family dynamics.
You'll enjoy this novel and then you'll be eager for the sequel.
Highly recommended.
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