A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness [Review]

A Discovery of Witches is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, written by Deborah Harkness. This paranormal romance novel was published in February 2011 by Viking Penguin .


A Discovery of Witches coverA 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’s the only creature who can break its spell.




I read A Discovery of Witches from the public library because I had heard good things about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as other people had.

This review was originally written for Goodreads. I added more to it when I put it on my old blog Books That Hook, and I’m adding even more to it now. I’m not re-reading the book because I remember it well. Some things about this book stuck with me. Even though it wasn’t one of my favorite books, it was memorable.

Quick Review: Stiff writing, overloaded with details, and weak heroine. However, good plot structure, worldbuilding, and interesting concept.

The Story

There isn’t a lot to say about the plot that isn’t in the blurb. But, the blurb is insufficient in that it doesn’t indicate that this is a romance. It doesn’t prepare the reader for sex, insta-love, or some of the other things in this novel.

The pace of the book is pretty slow in the first half. But, I can’t complain about the plot’s structure. It felt solid and all the points fit together logically.

The Characters

The main character, Diana, was too dependent on the man for my taste. I didn’t like how she just went along with everything he told her to do. She didn’t seem to have a mind of her own.

Plus, she was wishy-washy. Use my powers, don’t use my powers, use my powers…. I could understand hesitancy. However, I couldn’t deal with her indecision.

The romance seemed rushed. I was okay with it most of the way through the book; the ending bothered me.

The Writing

Without knowing anything about the author, I accurately guessed that she was a scholar. At first, I felt like I was reading a journal article rather than a work of fiction. Another reviewer on Amazon said, “trying too hard to be scholarly.” I didn’t get the feeling that Harkness was trying–I think it’s natural for her because of her occupation–so I can’t completely agree with the other reviewer. I got the feeling that Harkness needed to try to relax and let the story flow. It felt very stiff and academic.

I had to force myself to continue reading. I’m glad I did because it became more interesting as the story progressed.

I didn’t like how much description went into her running and rowing activities, because I’m not interested in running or rowing. These scenes felt overly dragged out, becoming filler. The same thing goes for the excessive amount of detail about wines. I was bored through many parts of the book.

If the author had put in more confrontations and given the main character more of a backbone, it would have been a much better read for me.

Do I Recommend?

I wasn’t blown away by A Discovery of Witches.  I won’t be reading the sequels. I’m not interested in the characters enough to want to see what happens to them next.

I did enjoy the overall story concept and the worldbuilding. The main character was too weak and dependent for me, and the writing was too stuffy and bogged down with useless details.

However, many people liked this book and the others that followed. So, I don’t want to discourage you from giving it a try if you haven’t read it yet. Just keep in mind that the romance is insta-love and the main character doesn’t mind having a man boss her around.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (C)


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About Jen Schaper

In addition to being a book blogger, I am a mother of three children, a retail backroom coordinator, and a wannabe writer (when I make time to do it).
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