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Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness


Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls #1
Genre: Fiction/Paranormal Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 24 hours (579 pages)
Publisher: Viking Penguin; Penguin Audio
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Source: Library
Content Warnings: torture, death of parents, panic attacks


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.


This book started off strong with a fascinating premise: the origins of witches, vampire, and daemons may be revealed through a lost alchemical text and genetic biology. However, this book was way too long and desperately needed some better editing. The compelling aspects of the plot were bogged down by tangents on history, alchemy, rare books, and everyday life. There were maybe two scenes in the entire book that I would describe as “exciting,” and even though a sense of urgency increased throughout the book, the slow pace never picked up.

This has been described as “Twilight for adults,” and I thought it was exactly that: hundreds of pages of mundane descriptions, a possessive male vampire with ample red flags, a heroine who loses agency and common sense as the book progresses, rushed marriage, weird attitudes toward sex, and very little action despite a lot of build up.

The audiobook is 24 hours long. It truly drags and put me in a bit of an audio slump where all I wanted to listen to after I finished were podcasts with bite sized stories. I am interested enough in kernels of this story that I think I will read the next book after the odd cliffhanger ending. The blend of history, alchemy, science, magic, and paranormal lore in this book is fascinating, but the storytelling and romance leave something to be desired.

Author: Caroline | Carolibrary

Hello! I’m Caroline! I am a teacher, a book lover, and a nerd. My passions include reading, writing, bookstagram, barre & yoga, baking, binging TV shows, and Star Wars. I love stories in all formats because they can transport you to a different world while helping you understand the world around you. I have always found books to be a particularly magical source of imagination.

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