Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Goodreads Summary: 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.
Goodreads Rating: 4 stars with over 300,000 ratings
Genre Listing: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Paranormal, Vampires, Witches, Magic, Supernatural
Goodreads Challenge: 18/50
2019 Reading Challenge: #11 A New York Times' Best Seller (Past or Present). Find the full challenge here.

Book Review:

Hurray! I finished a full tier on the 2019 reading challenge. This worked out well for A New York Times' Best Seller, especially considering it was already on my kindle. I thought I was going to have to buy something specifically for this category.

I honestly wasn't sure how I was going to like A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I had a few people tell me it was good, but the description above mentioning Twilight made me cringe. Seriously, if you ever want to recommend a book to me do not compare it in a positive light to Twilight or 50 Shades. That is almost a guaranteed way to get me to not read it. Early on in the book, I couldn't really take Diana seriously. I felt like there was a lot of hypocrisy surrounding her magic and lack of using it. I also rolled my eyes a lot at Matthew's initial mood swings and possessive creepiness. Because of this, it made getting into A Discovery of Witches kind of hard. I thought it was interesting, but I wasn't completely engrossed in it. I also expected to completely detest it. I mentioned to some friends that I was "torn between liking it, being completely annoyed by it, and disgusted with myself for liking it."

I eventually got into the book. I think it was somewhere around 40% where I really took an interest in what was going on. I think most of what initially kept me going was the fact that two of my closest friends had highly recommended it. Neither of these ladies has steered me wrong so far in their book recommendations. Once I hit that moment of where I got completely absorbed into A Discovery of Witches, I couldn't put it down.

A lot of Diana's story is based on her unwillingness to use her magic and her study of Alchemy. I thought that with how the story played out, it felt destined that she was a Historian with a specialty in Alchemy. I want to dive more into this topic, but I feel like if I do, I'll just give out all kinds of spoilers. I'll be honest, I didn't understand a lot of the Alchemy stuff. It's not something I've really read anything on (fiction or otherwise), however, despite my lack of knowledge, I found it really interesting. I would have loved to see an image of the alchemy books and pictures described. I think it would have added so much to the story.

I loved the history in A Discovery of Witches. There's a lot of witch history and urban legends as well as Vampire history. I was amused when Diana and Matthew had an entire conversation based on what was true about witches (in their world) and what was made up by humans. I also liked that Matthew and his family are very ancient vampires. I feel like in most vampire stories, the age range is around 500 years. Matthew is much older than most vampires. Because of his age, there is a lot of history involved.

I liked that Deborah Harkness provided a glimpse of life with each very different family. I think that I liked Matthew's family a bit more than Diana's. Because of the tension between Vampires and Witches portrayed in the story, both families were a little standoffish when meeting the spouse. I feel like Matthew's family was quicker to accept Diana, and it felt more genuine than when Diana's family met Matthew. House wise though I loved Diana's house more, except for Matthew's library. The Bishop House is a fantastic character in its own right. It's moody, opinionated, and has a life of its own. The Bishop House finds and loses objects, adds rooms on when it thinks there will be guests, and slams things around when it wants attention. It's a perfect addition to a witchy house.

I was actually kind of bummed when I finished A Discovery of Witches. I think when I bought it, I got it on sale, so I couldn't dive right into the second book. Why, you ask? Because I'm cheap as hell and not going to pay $14 for an e-book. I don't even pay that for paperbacks. The BFF, however, has a copy of the 2nd and 3rd books and promised to mail them to me. I can't wait to indulge. Now that a Discovery of Witches is finished, I'm moving on to the second tier of the challenge. I'm currently working on "A book with a color in the title." So, stay tuned for that post!


  1. Yay! Also - being an avid audiobook "reader" I have to say, the narrator for these books is A+. She has great range, convincing accents and her pace is perfect. Definitely recommend !

    1. Oh! That is good to know. Thanks for the feedback for fellow Audiobook readers. <3


Thank you for reading my book blog. Please feel free to leave a comment to further or start a discussion on the book reviews and other posts. If you have a book recommendation for me, I would love to hear it!