Book Review

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of WitchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Published by Viking Penguin on February 8, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 579
Format: ebook
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A 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.

What I Expected [Prior to the Summary Read]

  • A literal discovery of a coven, or something, of witches
  • Lots of magical mayhem
  • Covens!

What I Got

  • A romance that really got on my nerves
  • Too much detail
  • Likable, almost overly developed, characters
  • Kind of a coven introduction

What I Thought

I hear so many amazing things about Deborah Harkness’ writing and storytelling as well as about this book. Sadly, I grew bored a little more than halfway through the tale. At first, I fell in immediate love with A Discovery of Witches. Quite naturally, I was attracted to the leading lady, Diana, and her love for books and research, as she is Harvard educated, after all.

The book opens with Diana working in a beautifully described college library, where she gets her hands on an ancient book, which ends up being a major focal point in the story. To my dismay, the tome, which turns out to be a point of obsession for witches, demons, and vampires around the world, following its unheard of discovery by Diana, gets lost in the shuffle of romantic shenanigans.

Regarding Diana, in the beginning, I could really identify with her – she rowed [I rowed in college], she is a loner [I’m a total loner and homebody], she loves to read and learn [me too], and she has an aunt who worries herself sick over her [my mom does this, of course]. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on Diana’s witchy coolness and interests, she just has to fall for someone, who is, of course, a vampire, and the entire focus of the book shifts.

I knew as soon as Matthew Clairmont enters the picture too early, in my opinion, that I was in for an irritating romance. Now, at first, the romance is sort of fun; however, every tiny detail of Matthew and Diana’s budding relationship sucks the life out of a book I assumed would keep me entranced.

Don’t get me wrong – romance in books can be fun, sweet, and all-around adorable, but the dance of love between Diana and Matthew made me want to punch myself in the face. Why do readers need to know EVERY. SINGLE. DETAIL. about the duo, from what she eats [and how often] to basically a thorough description of every one of Matthew’s creepily meticulously put together getups.

The 579 pages that could have been put to good use by discussing the intriguingly ancient book of secrets, which is hotly desired by witches, demons, and vampires alike, are spent, after teasing readers about the tome, meticulously detailing Diana’s freaking apartment, Diana’s experience at a yoga class with Matthew, and the architecture of practically every mildly interesting building in Diana’s sight.

I was driven insane waiting and waiting and waiting for attention to return to the damn long-lost book by romantic tidbits and Diana crying and longing for a vampire she pretty much has just met. I could not identify with Diana anymore after she falls in love, with a vampire who isn’t really descriptively cute, after knowing him for, like, two weeks.

I was relieved when I found out that A Discovery of Witches is the first in a trilogy, which will give me ample opportunity to find out what the deal is with that damn book; hopefully, the romantic chapters and endless descriptions of kisses will ease up as the trilogy moves along. Yes, I am planning to read the follow-ups; I need to know about that book!

While Harkness has a fabulous style of writing, which I really enjoyed following with my eyeballs, I simply got so bogged down in details and a seemingly slow burn romance, which, as stated above, turns to true love two weeks following the initial encounter of the two parties involved. I had to push myself through the endless chapters about Diana and Matthew and their amazing love just to get to parts regarding that elusive book and another mystery, which I will totally not spoil!

I did really enjoy the relationship Diana has with her aunt [and her girlfriend] as well as learning just how old Matthew is and about his amazing experiences. I’m hypothesizing that Harkness focuses SO MUCH on the insta-romance in only this, the first book, as a buildup to the hopefully exciting and ALL ABOUT THAT TOP SECRET BOOK second and third installments!

Love, Maggie


  1. Ashleigh Williams

    Aw it’s such a shame that you didn’t enjoy the book so much, so gutting when that happens. This is currently on my TBR list and I’m hoping to like it, but we will see! 🙂

    07 . 01 . 2018
    • Maggie

      Yes, definitely give it a shot! I’m still planning to read the next two in the trilogy – I’ve got to know about that book! LOL!

      08 . 01 . 2018
  2. The Winter Tag

    […] Maggie […]

    29 . 12 . 2017
  3. Linda

    Great review. I did not think before hand that I would want to read this book and I think your review made me realise that I still don’t want to read it. I hope you find out about ‘the book’ in the other books!

    20 . 12 . 2017
    • Maggie

      LOL! Thanks, Linda! I’m dying about that damn book! 😀

      21 . 12 . 2017
  4. KRIS

    I didn’t read this in case spoilers and I really wanna read it… that rating makes me wonder though lol
    KRIS recently posted…Down The TBR Hole #22: Conquer your TBRMy Profile

    13 . 12 . 2017
    • Maggie

      LOL! I’m pretty hard on books! With this one, it’s a great story, but I felt it was WAY too long for my taste.

      19 . 12 . 2017
  5. Danielle

    You had some feelings about this book! I really want to read this one, but from reading your review, it sounds like I may have some of the same issues. I don’t care for a lot of romance in books and now I am struggling to decide if I should even read this one now or not.

    13 . 12 . 2017
    • Maggie

      LOL! I do *think* I want to try the second book, so I’m glad I gave this one a shot. The story is so intriguing at first, but the romance killed it! LOL!

      19 . 12 . 2017
  6. Dorka

    Ahh now I got nervous. A friend wants me to read this book because she really enjoyed it but I’m a little unsure now if I would enjoy it.

    13 . 12 . 2017
    • Maggie

      The story has SO much potential! It starts out so well, but it was just so long and talked SO much about the romance. Hopefully, the second book will be better!

      19 . 12 . 2017

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