Fiction Book Reviews

Fantasy | A Discovery of Witches | Deborah Harkness

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A Discovery of Witches was my first review and the first day I started blogging on 6th Feb 2011. This version has been updated.

A Discovery of Witches is the most enthralling novel I have read for a long while.  It is definitely a story to lose yourself in. Besides the magic/fantasy you would expect from this genre, the story shares an insightful journey of the characters accepting who they are and becoming what that is.

Book cover A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is published by Headline and is available to purchase in digital, hardcover, paperback and audiobook formats.


Diana Bishop and Matthew Clermont’s story is much more than a meeting of witch and vampire and the resulting emotions and chaos that follows.  It is also a meeting of the history of magic with the history of science.  Harkness uses her expertise from these disciplines and weaves them into a spellbinding read.  As an avid family history researcher I applaud Harkness crafting DNA into the story – the DNA which is quite a vital piece of information for our lead character to help her come to terms with her own journey.  I love the fact that Matthew has been researching and trying to discover if humans, witches, vampires and daemons all came from the same ‘mother’ with mutations and adaptations in their genes.

The characters, relationships and the world they live in are utterly believable. We start in modern day Oxford but surrounded by history with Diana living a modern day ‘single’ life. When the story moves to France we meet Matthew’s family and are introduced to more history and many secrets.  On Diana’s home turf in Madison we get to know Diana’s family and are introduced to the Bishop home which is quirky and hosts a gamut of ghosts. 

With such a hefty tome you might understandably think there would be times when you would be bored – I didn’t find this at all.  The way the writing flows leads you on from the foundation to each pivotal point. The timing of the next turn comes at exactly the right time to keep your imagination fired and you are led seamlessly on.

A Discovery of Witches is a debut novel and the first in the All Souls series.  I’m eagerly waiting for what comes next so that I can again immerse myself in this world!

UPDATE: A Discovery of Witches has since become a huge hit with devoted fans of both the novels and the TV series. The adaptation for TV has been the best I’ve seen yet! You can watch the episodes on YouTube.

I was fortunate to receive a proof of the fourth novel in this series, Time’s Convert. Read my review.

I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 9+ years. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school.

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