Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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.

A Discovery of Witches revolves around Diana Bishop, a witch, who is in a struggle to separate her life and reputation as an academic at Oxford University, with her powerful witch lineage that she cannot hide from forever.  She finds these two identities collide when she unearths something that has long been lost, and is desired by many.  Enter the charming and mysterious Matthew Clairmont. Enter many other characters who may or may not be trusted.  They all want what Diana has found, but at what cost?

I wouldn’t dispute someone’s claim the book is a bit wordy or longwinded. I think Harkness maybe drew certain points in the book, such as discussing the history of alchemy the character references etc, as going into too much detail that didn’t really contribute to the story’s development. However, on the whole, I mostly found this enjoyable, as I do like history.

I also really liked how the book is slightly different to the tv show – in the sense that the TV show doesn’t cover certain moments within the book, which made it feel like I was discovering the story anew.  I would, 100%, say the book is better than the TV show (so far!).

Chapter 29 was my favourite chapter – it’s when Diana met Satu. In fact, I think it was Chapters 29 to 34 that really made me fall in love with the book.

I rather liked the assortment of characters Harkness created. I remember reading a review of the book that stated the reader felt the characters weren’t that great, which made the book land in the DNF pile. I actually am of two minds here. I felt some characters like Matthew’s cold and at times aggressive/possessive personality was a bit much, and also felt Diana’s magic outbursts were similar too. However, like real people, characters can have flaws. Readers either accept these or they don’t. In this case, I easily accepted the flaws or mistakes made, because Harkness’s storytelling and her development of the characters enabled me to appreciate what was going on.

I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches; I’m excited to see where the story goes in Shadow of Night. It’s an adventure, fantasy, romance and mystery all in one story, which didn’t disappoint. I would recommend this book in a heartbeat, although, I would warn the fairhearted it is quite a weighty read, if you’re not in the mood to invest all your time in a big story.

I read the book in just over a week, and I rated it 4 stars on goodreads – it missed out on 5, purely because I would agree without hesitation, that Harkness could have edited the book down to be less weighty/wordy. But nonetheless what a joy it was to read!


Buy It Now

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Published February 2011
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Suspense, Mystery

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s