A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches

Book - 2011
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Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her. 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 is the only creature who can break its spell.
Publisher: New York, New York, U.S.A. : Viking, 2011
ISBN: 9780670022410
Branch Call Number: FICTION HARKNESS 2011
Characteristics: 579 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

You had me at library research and the discovery of an ancient and lost manuscript. Oh, there's witches, vampires, and other creatures coexisting in our world? I'm definitely in.

Diana Bishop is a witch who would rather be a history professor. But when she discovers a particular manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian library, she gets caught up in an adventure where she may no longer have much of a choice.

Diana, a historian and a witch, although she has vowed not to use her powers, unwittingly requests an enchanted library book which begins a magical adventure that draws a very handsome and interesting vampire to her aid. As of 08/14, it's also available on audiobook CD.

Scholar Diana Bishop mistakenly requests a bewitched manuscript for her research. She belongs to a family of witches--but because she's avoiding using her powers in favor of scientific pursuits, she sends the manuscript back into storage. What she doesn't realize is, she's already started down a ... Read More »

multcolib_lauralw Mar 12, 2014

Loved this supernatural romance and mystery! Great world building and interesting characters-really well developed.

From the critics

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Feb 20, 2019

Sooo goood! Need to read book two!

Jan 22, 2019


LPL_LeahN Jan 16, 2019

In this first book in the All Souls trilogy, a begrudging witch sets potentially catastrophic events into motion throughout the magical world she inhabits (along with vampires and daemons) when she uncovers a long lost and cryptic manuscript that could hold all the secrets of their existence and power. She meets Matthew, a 1500 year old vampire, and together they break all the rules while trying to solve the mystery of Ashmole 782.

I didn't love this book. Hear me out...the witch/vampire love story came off as rather tropey and also a little uncomfortable for me at times. Frankly, it was predictable and distracting. However, Harkness is a student of history and it shows, the book was brilliantly researched. And she also has a way with imagery, painting a beautiful backdrop of Oxford, a sprawling mansion estate in France, and the charming, bewitched home of Diana's childhood. And there was enough going on with the plot to compel me to keep reading, as well as put the second book in the series, A Shadow of Night, on hold.

Jan 16, 2019

I couldnt stop reading this book! Love the strong female character. All the history around the story its just fascinating!

sundanced Nov 28, 2018

The character development of this book is a little shallow, but there is still something that can draw you in. An interesting take on the supernatural romance between witch and vampire.

The novel focuses on a reluctant witch, Diana Bishop – she is a historian of Alchemy. While Diana is doing some research at Oxford, she comes across a manuscript that changes her life. She meets a vampire that changes her view of what being a witch means to her. With a new look on supernatural world of witches and vampires, and with a blend of real life history, this book is a delightful read and I can’t wait for next book in the series! (submitted by SC)

Sep 07, 2018

I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. Supernatural stuff. Some interesting history. Nice prose. Vivid description.
But about a third of the way through I gave up. About the 20th time he took her his strong arms and she looked up into his piercing dark eyes and felt his cold lips on her skin and she shivered all over, and then he loses his temper with her and starts grabbing her roughly and she's kind of scared and kind of turned on—about that time I started feeling like I might have to urp.
This is vampire romance, a genre the world needs no more of, with icky emotional elements that make the heroine look like a needy moron. Try again, Deborah Harkness. Make it less icky next time.

Jul 17, 2018

This is one of maybe three or four books that I hate with every fiber of my being. I hate nothing more than a book that claims it is something that it is not, or that its characters are something they are not. In this case, the heroine is billed as “smart” and yet she falls into every single stereotype imaginable, and while she’s studying at Oxford, and we’re supposed to believe how she’s smart, she never does anything intelligent or makes a smart decision. The heroine bears an eerie resemblance to the author herself, as if she just wanted to make a perfect version of herself and live out some fantasy. The love interest, a vampire named Matthew, is also a shallowly developed character, with no truly endearing features apart from like, his beautiful breath (I am not kidding about this).

I think the world could be relatively interesting. I wish the author spent more time developing this than describing Matthew’s breath. There’s an interesting concept about how science and magic are connected, and I think that’s a cool idea. But it just kind of… fizzles away, and the whole plot becomes secondary to the budding romance. There are so many elements clumsily thrown together in a disorganized hodgepodge of a plot. Think of a stereotype, any stereotype. It’s there. It's thriving. It's almost comical.

I want to really be mean about this book, and so everything past this point is going to have some SPOILERS. There are serious flaws, and I can’t really illustrate what’s wrong with this book without discussing them.

1. Characters. -Diana. She’s smart! She’s pretty! She rows! Colleagues respect her, and clearly want to date her. Despite this, she’s irrationally weird about magic, kind of oblivious to everyone who’s stalking her (except Matthew and his breath). She just sort of exists as a placeholder. Of course, though she doesn’t use magic, naturally she’s super powerful and perfect. She gets EVERY POWER EVER, including time travel. -Matthew! Guys, he literally has known EVERY HISTORICAL FIGURE EVER. Everrrrrrrr. Science, religion, art, you name it. There is no limit to what he knows and has experiences. How convenient! He’s got a rich family, who of course tolerate and seem to like Diana. I will say, I liked Diana’s aunts. They were the best, and most believable/realistic characters, in the book. If there was a better book, written by someone else, in this universe, about them… I’d probably read that.
2. Plot. It sounds exciting, but it isn’t. Magic, and vampires, and missing books, and all that but… Diana spends a lot of time rowing and going to yoga and not doing magic. Then a bunch of weird stuff just… happens. It ends with… time travel.
3. Romance. So, I am not a romance reader, and have tried to be fair here. If I like a plot, some romance can really supplement and enhance the story. Here, the weird romance devours every semblance of a plot and story. Matthew, despite being so beautiful, is mean and stomps all over Diana every time she disobeys him, and she doesn’t really care at that point. And this is all dismissed as part of the “that’s how vampires are!” trope. They were like… surprise married. I know, it doesn’t make sense. There is some bit at the end and they blather on and on about how vampires can’t have natural children or something and she’s been drinking contraceptive tea, so of course I expect that Diana will become pregnant. Probably twins.

I’ll stop now. This should be enough.

Jul 03, 2018

I could not put it down! The entire series is great. I wish she would write something else - but it seems like she is still riding this shooting star.

Jul 03, 2018

It's good long enough to get you invested in the plot and then she falls in love with a vampire and it's like a bad Twilight fanfic from there..

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Add Age Suitability
RainbowPonygirl1234 Jan 24, 2019

RainbowPonygirl1234 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 47

gspl_Janni Mar 24, 2015

gspl_Janni thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 16 and 99

Oct 07, 2012

bribear thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Jun 27, 2012

Faize thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


Add a Summary
Jul 24, 2016

When reading this book, I constantly fluctuated between wondering why I was reading it and not being able to put it down. Some parts I really didn't care for -- I am not a huge fan of romance in my fantasy books, but others, like the description of witches and their talents was pretty great. The book takes place in a world where witches, vampires, and daemons exist alongside humans, but are not allowed to mingle each other. This all changes when the heroine, a witch who has been denying her witchcraft, discovers a manuscript that everyone is looking for, and meets a dashing vampire. I admit, I will be reading the second book in the series soon. I also admit that it's not the best witchcraft novel I have ever read. I much preferred Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

AnneDromeda Oct 24, 2011

Diana Bishop is a witch in denial. An orphan born to a prominent witch family, she's ignoring her magical heritage to pour her energy into academia. She's travelled to Oxford's Bodleian Library to research a lecture she's giving on alchemy - but when she orders up one ancient manuscript, she unwittingly unleashes a maelstrom of supernatural power. Soon, she can't walk to her study carrel without tripping over some witch, vampire or demon brimming with curiosity or malicious intent. One such creature is Matthew Clairmont, a handsome fellow academic with a sanguine disposition. As other supernatural creatures become more threatening, Diana finds herself warily grateful for the help he offers. Can she survive the powers she's unleashed to become the witch she's meant to be? Is the real Matthew the kind, chivalrous man she's come to know, or the bloodthirsty hunter of whom she finds hints? The answers to these questions will determine the fate of the uneasy worldwide peace between witches, demons, vampires and humans.<br />

Like *Harry Potter*, *A Discovery of Witches* features an orphaned witch with latent legendary powers who encounters a great evil. It shares a great sense of mythology and place, too – you can practically smell the Bodleian when you're reading, and Oxford almost becomes extra character in the book. Diana's aunts' bewitched home in Wisconsin shares the same haunted architectural quirks readers loved in Hogwarts. And, like *Twilight*, an apparently-doomed romance with plenty of sexual tension and a sense of destiny takes centre stage in the action (but be forewarned: readers frustrated by the unresolved tension or the gender politics in *Twilight* will find themselves pretty annoyed with this book, too). This first book in the *All Souls* trilogy will also appeal to readers who enjoy the time travel elements and exhaustive research of authors like Diana Gabaldon (*Outlander* series) and Susanna Kearsley (*The Winter Sea*, *Marianna*). Other potential appeal factors include emphases on yoga, literature, and serious wine and book collecting. A great story to pick up for Hallowe'en, you'd best read the book now while the hold list is short, because the movie rights have already been purchased by Warner Bros. Oh, and good news for your future addiction issues: The second book, *Shadow of Night*, is anticipated for a summer 2012 release.

beauty1492 Jun 27, 2011

frist in Trilogy--All Souls Trilogy next novel 2012

driffle Jun 05, 2011

Slow at the beginning but reached a point where I didn't want to put it down. Can't wait for next book in series!


Add a Quote
gspl_Janni Mar 24, 2015

“Just because something seems impossible doesn’t make it untrue”
― Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches

Aug 14, 2012

‎"He was not of an age but for all time"___Ben Jonson


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gspl_Janni Mar 24, 2015

Sexual Content: Not much in book one but a little bit in book 2 & 3.

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