A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

July 8, 2015 Reviews 12

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah HarknessA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Published by Penguin Audio, Viking Penguin on February 8, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Romance
Pages: 579
Length: 24 hours 2 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

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.

I meant to pick up A Discovery of Witches a while ago, but it never happened. Then, in May we decided it would be our JULY book club read. Plenty of time to read it – so what did I do? I started it the weekend before, meaning I had roughly 3 days to read a 24 hour audio book. Generally speaking, that would mean that there was no way in HELL I was going to get that book finished in time. Guess what? I finished it with a day to spare! Yeah, I gobbled up A Discovery of Witches. It sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go!

So here’s the thing – I’m EXACTLY the sort of person that A Discovery of Witches is written for. At book club I found out that quite a few people found the first bit really slow. And after hearing their input, I can see why. For me, it was never slow because the main character is a historian. And not just any historian, but a historian of alchemy. And Diana is an Early Modern Historian – but she delves into the Middle Ages a bit. Now, those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while *might* remember that I went to grad school for history. You might even recall that I’m a medieval historian. What you likely DON’T know is that I’m a LATE medieval historian, who pushes into the Early Modern period frequently. You also probably don’t know that one of my exam fields is the History of Medicine… which just so happens to include – yep, you guessed it: Alchemy!

Okay – so point is – I’m probably the LEAST reliable source on whether this early bit dragged or not, because for me it was like inserting myself into all the good parts of grad school (and if you read this post you know grad school has not been a positive experience for me). It kinda reminded me what I love about history. And all the texts and people she talked about, like William Harvey and Vesalius… I’m initmately acquaninted with. Many of the manuscripts she talks about I’ve read and even handled. So it so sucked me in, because understanding and feeling close to Diana was oh so easy. And the historical references in A Dicovery of Witches were so rich and so on point.

So how about the stuff that has nothing to do with my history background? Well for me it was just this really great love story, set in my favorite kind of world – a complex magical one. I just love the world Harkness created and the way she reinvented Demons, gave witches some interesting twists, and kind of stuck to what we expect from vampires. It was an interesting, unique blend and I really enjoyed it.

Those who really like A Discovery of Witches and don’t like Twilight will probably completely disagree with me on this next point – but in my opinion, the love story had something of Twilight in it. I personally really enjoyed Twilight though, despite KNOWING it’s not at all great literature. Here’s an essential point though: As I was reading I found myself wondering if Stephanie Meyer might have read this and used it as inspiration. And then I found out that A Discovery of Witches wasn’t published until 2011 – AFTER Twilight. I never imagined the reverse, because while Twilight was a fun read – A Discovery of Witches is so complex and rich. A Discovery of Witches far surpasses Twilight, despite sharing similiarities! But you know that love story that kinda sucked you in when you first read Twilight? Matthew and Diana have a bit of that AND MORE.

Pacing wise, I felt it was a really steady pace and then the last 25% was non-stop. So much of what I’d like to talk about happens in that last 25% so just go ahead and read it, ok? I can’t recommend the audio enough. Jennifer Ikeda did a FANTASTIC job. This is a LONG book with LOTS of voices and accents and she nailed them! I listened at 1.8 speed and that was never a problem, which says a lot about a narrator IMO. Her voices for men and women were varied and strong. And I was really impressed when the story would indicate that Matthew’s accent changed and Jennifer’s narration did just that, while still maintaining that quality that made him Matthew. Definitely one to listen to.

I think I’ve praised A Discovery of Witches enough… so I’ll end with:
5 stars Flipping Fantastic

A Discovery of Witches by @DebHarkness sucked me in & wouldn't let me go! 5 stars. Click To Tweet Follow on Bloglovin

About Deborah Harkness

My life has been a series of left turns that nevertheless took me in the right direction (though it didn’t always seem so at the time). I went to college to be a theater major and ended up studying the Renaissance. I went to grad school to become a college administrator and loved to teach so much I became a college professor instead. I thought I wanted to be a Tudor-Stuart historian, and found myself a historian of science. I started blogging because a friend needed help on a project in 2006 and am still blogging about wine today. I started writing a novel in the fall of 2008, and it became a New York Times Bestseller in February 2011: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. The second volume in the All Souls Trilogy, SHADOW OF NIGHT, came out in July 2012 and debuted at #1 on the NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller’s List. What’s next? The final volume of the trilogy, of course: THE BOOK OF LIFE, coming July 15 2014 to the US, UK, Canada, and Republic of Ireland.


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About Berls
Berls has been a book lover her whole life. She reads pretty much every genre and is currently working hard at making her childhood dream of becoming an author come true. She loves sharing her thoughts about books, blogging, and just random fun stuff. She's a challenge and read-a-thon junkie, so it's no wonder that she loves co-hosting the COYER reading challenge. Leave a comment, Berls is always happy to chat!

12 Responses to “A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness”

    • Berls

      Thanks Carol! Yeah it has lots of details, I think it would be hard to pick up after a few years. I’m going to TRY and read the next two soon so I’m not lost when I finally read them.

  1. Bookworm Brandee

    This is a book I’ve had since it released. I was dying to read it. And guess what? Yeah, it’s still sitting on my shelf. I’m wishing it was on my Reading Assignment list – but I think I’ll get around to reading it sooner than later after the glowing review. 🙂 I’m liking the Twilight comparison, too. I recently read and reviewed The Witch of Painted Sorrows, which is set in Paris ~1895. It has lots of alchemy in it and I’m not an expert in that field, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I think you probably would too.

    Anyway, I got your replies to my comments but when I went to reply here, I couldn’t find your replies. So I’m replying in this comment. No worries about not dropping by lately. I’ve missed you, of course! But I’ve been traveling so much that I’ve been radio silent myself. But I’m trying to catch up. 🙂 We arrive in Dallas this coming Wednesday, the 15th. And we leave on the 22nd. I’ll be in touch – I’d really like to get together for at least a coffee!
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…#2015HW #ShelfLove Review ~ Raphael ~ DB ReynoldsMy Profile

    • Berls

      Yay!! I’m so glad I didn’t miss your visit! We leave for a camping trip on the 19th so we need to be sure to meet up early in your visit 🙂

      I think you’ll like A Discovery of Witches – I would recommend on audio too (of course I do more often than not lol). The Twilight comparison works for those that like twilight (like us) but it’s definitely better than twilight. I’m looking forward to starting the next one soon!

    • Berls

      You’re definitely not alone in that! I’m looking forward to reading the next one very soon 🙂

    • Berls

      I’d recommend giving it a try and seeing – BUT I will say that a lot of people have compared it to Outlander and I can see why. To me, Outlander drags more than this but that could just be my comfortability with the history and everything.

  2. Stormi

    I enjoyed Discovery of Witches, but I am like you in the fact that I liked her as a historian and didn’t ind didn’t find it boring. I don’t however agree there is any Twilight in this book..lol. (I am a firm Twilight hater so I might not have made the connection..still dont’ think it’s there..lol) Not sure why I never jumped on book two but you reading this one makes me want too. 🙂
    Stormi recently posted…Review of The Thickety: A Path BeginsMy Profile

    • Berls

      LOL I think you just proved my hypothesis that if you didn’t like Twilight you wouldn’t get the comparison. I mean they meet in the closest thing to the adult version of high school. He stalks her. He even goes into her apartment and watches her sleep just like Edward did with Bella. Then he tries to resist her because he’s no good for her, just like Edward. And she smells so good – better than most people’s blood, just like Bella. So many tense conversations before they let themselves be together, just like Edward and Bella. Then she’s in danger and he rushes her to his family for protection, just like Edward. Lol I guess that’s enough – you get my point. To me, the parallels were all over the first half of the book and their relationship felt very similar. Hell, he’s even being all old fashioned with her just like Edward was with Bella and they haven’t had sex! LOL 😀

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