Posted by: Genny Colby | December 18, 2011

Book Review-A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness


I am an avid reader, open to trying most any type of book.  I am very drawn to fiction, and I enjoy those with a supernatural or paranormal setting.  I spend a great deal of time reading books from the Young Adult section when it comes to this genre.  While there are many books in the fiction section that would fit in this category, I really do prefer to read stories that focus on character and plot development.  I find many of the books in the fiction section to be full of explicit sex and violence.  These are not necessarily what I am looking for when I pick up a book about witches, vampires, werewolves, etc.  Not that sex and violence may not have a place in the story, but I don’t need the descriptions to be quite as detailed or graphic.

A Discovery of Witches was on my wish list after reading a very positive review of it in Entertainment Weekly.  So it was with great excitement that I opened my Valentine’s Day gift from one amazing hubby to find this book.  I started reading it right away and could not put it down!

Diana has devoted herself to the study of how the human race moved from a belief in magic and witchcraft to a belief in science and medicine.   It is ironic her course of study, seeing as she is a descendant  of both the Bishop and Proctor line of witches, yet does not practice her craft, after the traumatic death of her parents in Africa when she was young.  She was raised by her aunt, also a witch, but has chosen to cut all magic out of her life, or at least she has convinced herself she has lived her life with minimal magical influence.  That is until she calls up an obscure manuscript for her research.  And then all the witches, vampires, and daemons come out of the woodwork.  Including one vampire, Matthew Clairmont, that is like no one she has ever met before and she feels a strong connection to almost from the beginning.

Diana must come to terms with her not only her heritage, but the powers she has so long denied.  Diana begins to explore her powers a little more, looking back at her life at how magic has always been present.  Diana must also learn about the magical world that includes not only witches, but the vampires and daemons, as well as the politics that govern their interactions, which put her relationship with Matthew in the spot light.  And what is in this book that everyone is so curious about?  Does it really explain how the three magical races began?  Or it is something more?  Why, after centuries of being lost, does it appear to Diana?

I loved the magical aspect of this book, but really what I enjoyed were the rich, detailed characters and the overall story arc.  Ms Harkness has created such a world that I felt like I was right there, as an observer, or even as Diana.  I know that there are other reviews of this book that complain about how much detail Ms Harkness goes into when describing the scene, that it was too much or too detailed.  I will agree that there are authors who seem to spend more time setting the scene then telling a story, but for me, this was not the case with this book.  I loved all the details, they made this whole world come to life.  I felt like I was sitting in the library with Diana, or in France with Matthew, or back home with her Aunts.  Because so much of the magical world is based on sights, sounds, and smells I found all these details welcome and important to really bring everything to life for the reader.

Ms Harkness also does an amazing job developing characters.  No one in this book, even the most secondary of players is two-dimensional.  They all have a story, one that maybe we don’t get to hear yet, but you know it is there, waiting for its time.  Enough information is provided to keep the story moving, but not so much that by page 100 you know the whole story.  There were many twists and turns that I didn’t seem coming at first, but then looking back, I could see how the ground work was laid for all of them.  The reader is also treated with respect in that not everything is spelled out in black and white, you do have to think a little bit, pay attention to the details.

Yes, this is an “adult” book and there is sex and violence, but none of it is done simply for shock value.  To me, all these parts felt natural to the story and the characters.  And their descriptions did not go on for page after page after page, with no relevance to the overall story.

I truly can not wait for the next installment in this series.  It is going to be a long wait until July 2012, but at least I know I can go back and read this one again and again.  Each time finding new things that I either missed or did not take notice of the previous reads.  So not only is this a wonderful story, but it is also one that can be read more than once and not lose its magic.


  1. Well put, I loved this book too 🙂

  2. I liked it too, I had originally been weary of it as I thought it was just another vampire love story but once I started it I was hooked. Didn’t know it would be such a long wait for the second book – that sucks!

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