A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches


Wow, the things to say about this book. I avoided A Discovery of Witches for a long time, cause it was really popular and that usually ends with me thinking it’s so overrated. I tentatively put it on my to-read list when I heard the two main characters, Diana and Matthew, compared to Jamie and Claire from Outlander. And I FINALLY got around to reading it last week for the Bout of Books readathon. I started it on audio and got sucked into the story, but I have to say that I didn’t really like the narrator, so I switched to the paperback copy a few chapters in.

Well, it would help if I told you what the book was about, right? Diana Bishop is a scholar and comes from a long line of witches, though she rejects her magic. While doing research in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, she comes across a magical alchemical manuscript but returns it to the stacks in an attempt to keep magic out of her life. But by finding the manuscript, she’s suddenly drew the attention of daemons, witches, and vampires who all want it and will go to drastic lengths to get it. Among them is the handsome vampire Matthew Clairmont, who has an interest in the book but also starts to show an interest in Diana.

BUT IT’S ABOUT SO MUCH MORE. There’s a lot to like in this book – it starts off with the mystery surrounding the manuscript and evolves into a complex plot with a wide range of characters. I’m trying to avoid saying “It’s so good and you should just read it” so how about I list the stuff I liked about the book, mmmkay?

  • The magical world set-up. Basically there’s 4 types of beings – humans, witches, demons (daemons just looks so silly), and vampires. And they all kind of stick to themselves and all have their different quirks. Again, so much more to go into here, but it would spoil some of the discoveries made while reading so I won’t go into detail.
  • The history and scope of the book. The characters visit at least 4 different countries throughout the book, and there’s a good amount of history mentioned in the background of some of these characters.
  • Diana and Matthew – of course they’re a cool couple and I rooted for their romance. I would NOT compare it to Jamie & Claire – they’re not that good. In fact, in the beginning they’re a little bit Twilight-ish which turned me off, but the dynamics of their relationship changed as they story went on so that wasn’t an issue.
  • Awesome secondary characters, including Matthew’s friend Hamish and Diana’s over-protective aunts.
  • The fun whimsical stuff that accompanies paranormal and magical stuff in books – cool powers, ghosts, traits of the creatures, etc.
  • A whole lot happens in this book and kept me reading at a really fast pace, and even though this is very clearly the start of a trilogy it had a good solid ending too. I can’t wait to start the sequel, Shadow of Night. I already have it!

And for some balance, a couple of things that bugged me…

  • Diana’s personality throughout the book completely changes. It’s good, cause she was a bit narrow-minded and whiny in the beginning. I’m actually pleased with the way her character grew, but the growth was a bit abrupt, at least to me.
  • Vampire-lore. I get that vampires are fiction and therefore the rules can be played with, but really – vampires that can be in the sun AND can eat regular food on occasion? That’s a little convenient. But thank goodness there’s no sparkly vampires, so I guess no harm really done.


Sick of me rambling yet? A Discovery of Witches is a really good book. There’s a little something for everyone: magic, history, science, ethics, mystery, romance, action… you get the picture.


Sarah Says: 4.5 stars





  1. This one does sound interesting. Though I’m with you; vampires are becoming quite convenient in their habits. I hate that. I don’t think anyone can compare to Jamie and Claire.


  2. I’ve been hearing about this book, but much like you, the more I hear about a book the more I’m put off. But, wow, your review totally convinced me to add it to my to-read list! You know i can’t resist a good paranormal romance, mystery, history, etc, especially when it’s all mixed up. Thanks for sharing!


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