Book Reviews, Five Stars

#BookReview – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Genre: Urban fantasy

Rating: 5 stars


“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 genticist.

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…”


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Strong, female leads step aside, Diana Bishop is in the house!

I first read this book years ago when I was at university, but I have re-read it several times for one glorious reason: this book is one of my utter favourites. The first book in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches is a fantastic start to one of the best magical trilogies out there.

In A Discovery of Witches, all is not well in the supernatural world. Supernatural beings are dying out and soon will be all but a memory.

Diana Bishop is an academic powerhouse, having earned her doctorate and tenure, and finds herself in the British city of Oxford for research on her latest project. Having long ago abandoned her supernatural heritage following the death of her parents, Diana finds magic returning to her life after she discovers a long-lost magical manuscript at Boedelian library.

Hearing of her find, supernaturals from across the world flock to Oxford in the hope that they will take the manuscript for themselves, including vampire and geneticist Matthew Clairmont. The manuscript, Ashmole 782, is thought to hold the origins of supernatural beings and with it the possibility of saving supernaturals from extinction.

Trying to avoid magic at all costs, Diana becomes enchanted by the mysterious Matthew Clairmont and despite her best efforts, finds herself falling for him.

When I first read this book at 19 years old, Diana was someone I aspired to be like: accomplished, hard-working and determined to succeed. Although from time to time her determined attitude turns into stubbornness. She doesn’t want to rely on anyone even though she comes to realise that sometimes she has to, but she prefers to be self-sufficient and is happy that way.




Diana is a great character, but Matthew Clairmont represents the brooding and often protective male vampire character present in many popular urban fantasy novels. While definitely more intelligent and curious, he falls into the same mould as the vampire love interests that came before him. But this sort of character became popular for a reason – we secretly love it!

Chased by the Congregation – a collection of witches, daemons and vampires tasked with organising the supernatural world – Diana and Matthew fight to keep Diana safe as the race to get Ashmole 782 becomes more dangerous and underhanded. But also, they fight to stay together as the Congregation long ago outlawed any relationships between supernatural beings.

Set in mostly Oxford and rural France, A Discovery of Witches is a really magical read brought to life with vivid, quirky characters and excellent imagery that has us believing we are watching it all happen before our eyes.

I recommend this one for any urban fantasy and paranormal romance fans, but historical fiction readers will love this one too – especially if you get to the sequels!

A Discovery of Witches is available in e-book, paperback, hardback, and audio book – plus it is now a TV series which premiered on Sky during the last months of 2018. (Pssst, season 2 is coming soon!)


Have you read this book? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


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