Hayley’s Review of “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness

By: Hayley Green

In this fantasy novel, we meet unassuming professor Diana Bishop, who specializes in alchemical texts. When she calls a book from the stacks of the library at Oxford University where she lives and works, she realizes quickly that there is something wrong with it. We find out that Diana has long familial history of witches, and she is not different, even if she tries to get along without her powers.

Spooked by the magic in the manuscript, she returns it. But soon after, she meets Matthew Clairmont, a vampire who takes an interest in her and the manuscript. A romance ensues, with each party wanting different things. However, cross species romances are forbidden, and are persecuted, in part because of Diana’s ability to call that book up even though the supernatural creatures had lost the manuscript long ago. 

This book was interesting and intriguing, the characters distinct and well defined. It was slow to build up the romance and relationship between Matthew and Diana, but about two-thirds of the way through the plot picked up. I enjoyed the slow pace, but I know it’s not for everyone. Some slow parts I was not a fan of, such as the extensive descriptions of architecture, but those details show themselves to be important to Matthew’s background, so I understand why she included them.

I enjoyed the book, the slow build only adding to the anticipation, and the intensity of the last third of the book being a great change of pace. It has a sense of mystery, hints at a larger destiny for the characters in the grand scheme of things, and things that Diana’s late mother and father knew as they guide her beyond the grave. The house that Diana’s aunts live in is a character unto itself that often put a smile on my face. She treated the depiction of Diana’s aunt’s lesbian relationship as normal and expected, which was refreshing to see them as normal people and not have them die, although I have yet to read the next two books in the series. They may die in the next two books, but I sincerely hope not.

It ends on a cliffhanger, branching into the second book which as far as I can tell will have a different flavor and spin than the first book, branching more into the historical fiction world than the fantasy world, but I am excited to see how Harkness pulls it off.

Overall, I like this a lot more than the recent TV series that came out. I didn’t picture the characters like the cast of the TV show, and I felt like the show played up the drama and horror elements more than I felt in the book, but isn’t the book always better?

I would recommend this book with all of my heart. I will review the next book when I get around to it, but I have a while to go before I will get to it.

Get a copy from Book Depository here!*

*Functionally Fictional is an affiliate of Book Depository. I receive a portion of the commission from any product purchased through these links.

4 thoughts on “Hayley’s Review of “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness

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  1. Great review! I managed to listen to the Audiobook in a week after seeing the first episode of the TV show and loved it. There were some fantastic moments in the books I think we really missed out on in the show though sadly and I (slightly ironically) actually pictured the actress who played Diana’s mother in the show as Diana for me.

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