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A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

107 out of 118 people found this review helpful.

Great choice for fans of Anne Rice's witch/vampire novels!

I have just finished reading this book and found it far more enjoyable than I expected to from reading the synopsis. A Discovery of Witches is by a first-time fiction author and is set in modern times, the fantasy element comes in when we discover that the makeup of th...
I have just finished reading this book and found it far more enjoyable than I expected to from reading the synopsis. A Discovery of Witches is by a first-time fiction author and is set in modern times, the fantasy element comes in when we discover that the makeup of the world's intelligent creatures is only around 90% human with the other 10% comprising witches, vampires and daemons. It is the story of Diana, the last witch in a long line of Butler witches who can trace their history back to the Salem Witch Trials. Diana has spent most of her life denying her magical abilities, her parents were killed when she was very young and fear plays a large part in her reluctance to use magic. When she discovers a mysterious lost (and magical) file in a library whilst researching the history of alchemy her life changes in a major way. She meets a gorgeous male vampire, Matthew, a distinguished scientist, who is a lot older than he looks, and he appoints himself as her protector against the horde of witches, vampires and daemons who want to know the secret of the missing manuscript, they all have their own theories about what this work contains and will stop at nothing to get it.

This is obviously the first book in a series and has both romantic and thriller elements in addition to its modern fantasy theme, it started a little too slowly for my liking but it is well worth persevering as once the pace picks up it is very hard to put down. In this society, vampires and witches hate each other as a general rule and the relationship that develops between Diana and Matthew has serious repercussions for the whole of non-human society. The dynamic between the two of them is fascinating, and more than a little erotic, this book is likely to appeal to women far more than men. Diana is feisty, Matthew is controlling, the clashes between the two of them, particularly as Diana learns just how much power she has, are sometimes emotional, sometimes humorous and always entertaining. I particularly loved the Bishop family house where Diana's aunt and her female partner (both witches themselves) live, I won't spoil the surprise but its certainly no ordinary home and the events that take place there provide some of the most humorous moments in the story as well as one of the most dramatic. This novel will definitely appeal to fans of Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches and Vampire Chronicles novels and I am looking forward to the next instalment. Be warned, it has a cliffhanger ending!

posted by Saetana on February 1, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

123 out of 209 people found this review helpful.

How can a ebook be more expensive than a hardcover?

B&N you have got to figure this out!!! There are so many books I would love to buy but seriously an ebook should not be more than $9.99!!!!!

posted by LoveToReadNYC on February 16, 2011

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    Readers beware: the sequel is not yet out

    I was warned by my Pop to never begin a book if you know it will be part of a set that is not yet completed. I have heeded his advice in the past but, unfortunately, I started reading this book before I realized it was set to be a part of a trilogy. By then, it was too late. I was hooked.

    There are elements of the book that remind me of the Lord of the Rings (the idea of different species all having to overcome prejudice to accomplish a goal for example). But the centerpiece of the book is a romance between a witch and a vampire. Oddly enough, I am not usually a fantasy reader, nor do I usually find myself interested in vampires in particular. I worked at a bookstore and banded together with several other booksellers who all refused to read Twilight, for example (because it had become so mainstream). Also, I usually scoff at romance novels because of their cheesy nature and obvious patriarchal stereotypes (I did like the Traveler's Wife, though, so I do enjoy a good romantic story occasionally). When this book came up as a recommended reading, I was in the mood for an escape, so I took a chance on the book. I read some of the negative reviews and can see where they are coming from. If you are trying to find enlightenment through reading material, this probably isn't for you. If you want an enchanting escape from the mundane, on the other hand, I say this is a fantastic choice. But if you are anything like me, you will find yourself getting sucked in and thoroughly frustrated when you realize that you will have to wait for the next in the series to come out. So if you don't want to itch with anticipation, wait a few more years before entering into Deborah Harness' world of witches, demons, vampires, history, mystery and intrigue.

    75 out of 86 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Very great story line. Very well written. enjoyed this

    Very great story line. Very well written. enjoyed this

    59 out of 63 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Fantastic Hard To Put Down Novel

    This book is just flat out awesome. Sometimes when you pick up a book, within the first few pages you know you're holding something special in your hands. This is one of those books. It is unlike any paranormal novel I've ever read. It's a smart, sophisticated tale of Diana Bishop, the last in a long line of powerful Bishop witches, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire who has lived 1500 years. It takes place in Oxford, England. Diana is an American professor who's in Oxford researching ancient alchemy books when she calls up Ashmole 782, a manuscript that possibly holds the secrets to the origins of four species: humans, daemons, vampires, and witches. Diana's magical abilities unlock the spell keeping Ashmole 782 from all of those who desperately want it. She quickly sends it away, and the race is on between witches, daemons, and vampires to control Diana and find the manuscript again. Matthew is also after the manuscript, but his growing feelings for Diana soon begin to eclipse his need for the ancient manuscript. And he is the only one who can protect Diana.

    This book is written for an adult audience--wine, alchemy, genetics, and the world of
    the supernatural all combine to put you on the edge of your seat. The novel is long--almost 600 pages, but the story flows along quite nicely, building into an incredible ending. Can Diana tap into her powerful magical abilities in time to save herself and Matthew? Can a vampire and witch break an ancient taboo and be together? Will Ashmole 782 give the answers everyone has been waiting centuries to find?

    You must grab this, sit down, and begin reading this immediately when it comes out in February 2011. It is amazing! And, best of all, it's the first in a trilogy.

    39 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Discovery of Witches the first in the All Souls Trilogy is a masterpiece of literary fiction, filled with factional and fantastical beings brought to us by the lyrical narrative of a most talented storyteller.

    In the beginning there were myths and legends brought about by a smidgen of truth and in that truth we find Historian Diana Bishop at Oxford doing research for an upcoming lecture where she comes across a strange medieval manuscript that's locked not by a physical key but by a magical one, one that will require her to open the door to a painful past that she has stubbornly refused to acknowledge. In the shadows watching is the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont a renowned professor of genetics. Diana and Matthew soon discover that their fierce attraction to each other is not only strange but forbidden as well and they will have challenges to face the least of which is their supposed predisposed mistrust of each other's species. He is a vampire and she is a witch. Will they find the answer they must, will they fight for each other or against each other and will this be a new beginning or the end.

    Deborah Harkness brings us an amazing story filled with fact and fiction, legend and myth and gives us a fantastical twist to the age old question of where do we come from. She brings her story to us using a plot that is both fantastic and easily believed by her audience by adopting historical references and facts and mixing them with occultist beliefs and horror stories. She will mesmerize her readers with her dialogue so much so that the almost 600 pages will fly by in the blink of a witches eye. She takes us to magical and real places with effortless and picturesque descriptive narrative as we live vicariously the lives of her characters through our eyes by her words. She also gives us characters none of which we've ever experienced before by making them unbelievable and real at the same time and by giving them the substance they need to make them unforgettable to her readers. The characters will each tell you their own story interspersed into the novel so that they all become an important part of the whole. Our hero Matthew and heroine Diana are two of the most unlikely lovers ever to grace the pages of a book and they will quickly become part of your must read again and again tales. Her romance is innocent and reminiscent of times long ago while also being sensual as to appeal to today's most critical reader. But this is much more than just a romance it's an epic tale that will alter your ideas of good vs evil, it's a mystery of historic proportion and is filled with the fantasy that readers today can't seem to get enough of.

    So fill all of your fantasies in one read and give yourself over to the care of this amazing storyteller for the duration of her book and relish in the knowledge that there's more to come. Make this a must read for 2011 and I promise you won't be sorry.
    I hate to put this novel in a box of likes because there's nothing out there really like it so instead if you are a fan of Diana Gabaldon, JR Ward and Karen Marie Moning you will love this book and also fans of The Historian, Dracula and Dracula the Undead will love the fantasy in this one.

    26 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011


    why would some one write a review bashing readers who liked and enjoyed this book? To me, that sends a message ignorance of the poster...her review only made the book more interesting to me and I am sure to others who dislike these kinds of reviews...

    24 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2011

    Great witchy fun! couldn't put it down

    This book was so good I lost sleep over it! And then when I did sleep I'd dream about it some more! All the trouble starts when the main character calls up a library book that's been lost for, oh.. a few hundred years! After that everything starts to go downhill, with other witches, daemons and vampires getting involved, she's faced with the fight of her life. This book was like Anne Rice meets Sharon Shinn meets Dan Brown lol, you won't be disappointed!

    20 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2011


    I loved the characters and the magic. The story drew me in. I can't wait to read the next one.

    17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2011

    Quit complaining about the cost of ebooks

    Please recognize that when you buy a book you are paying for the CONTENTS not a physical thing. If you think the ideas or writing or topic has no value then don't buy it. If you so desperately need to pay for a physical book the give up your ereader.

    8 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Monumental Collision of Magic, History, and Science!

    This is not your ordinary story about witches, vampires and daemons!

    Diana Bishop's famous ancestor was executed for being a witch. As a heart-rending consequence of Diana's parents' mysterious deaths, Diana has vowed she will live totally as a human, denying her identity as a witch with both usual and unusual powers. Dedicating her life to logic and ordinary living, she is now a history scholar doing research on alchemy texts in the Bodleian library at Oxford. Upon receiving a requested text called Ashmole 782, she realizes either the book is spellbound or there is something about this book that connects with her hidden witch powers. Add to that the reactions of suddenly appearing witches, vampires, and daemons whose animosity and threatening looks and words make Diana's wish for normalcy an illusion she can no longer ignore.

    Into the midst of this reality arrives a handsome, extremely intelligent and old vampire, Matthew Clairmont, who is supposedly pursuing his own research as a geneticist. Initially disliking and avoiding his presence, Diana finally begins to realize he is protecting her from direct attack by the hordes of persons appearing daily in the library who are insisting she recall the text they are desperate to obtain. Then he begins to appear during her running and rowing exercises which seem to be the only way she can stop her natural abilities from emerging with perilous effects on herself as well as others.

    Why is Matthew so attracted to Diana and what is behind the interest so many have in this mysterious text lost for centuries which has appeared and again disappeared after Diana's innocent unbinding of its pages? Finally, when several close calls with death frighten Diana into realizing her lack of control, she accepts shelter first with Matthew's vampire family in France and then with her own witch family in America.

    A Discovery of Witches is so much more than just a supernatural story! Yes there are adventurous thrills for those who love the proverbial accounts of such creatures. But here is an intelligent consideration of the essence of origins, differences, genetic mating and consequences, shared powers defying definition and classification, versions of history holding secret and amazing phenomena, relationships of enmity forced to unite under common needs - both good and evil, the quintessential realities behind the search for the Philosopher's stone or alchemy, and so much more.

    Add to that a sweet, dangerous romance all the more real because of what seems to be its doomed end, and herein is the perfect combination, preciously difficult to adequately encompass in any brief review. This tale is a smart, tense, provocative, and enchanting read you will not want to end and will be relishing long after the last page is turned. This reviewer is so looking forward to the sequel to this amazing novel which will be a best seller!!! Absolutely delightful and impossible to put down!

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a great academic fantasy. A must read for urban fantasy fans

    Most of the patrons and staff at the Oxford University Bodleian Library are paranormals consisting of three species: witches, daemons and vampires; though there are some humans also. Visiting American witch Yale professor Diana Bishop is at the library conducting research into ancient alchemy tomes when she uncovers the Ashmole 782 manuscript that may provide insight into the origins of the species. Using her paranormal skills, as the offspring of two powerful but deceased witches, Diana uses an enchantment to open the tome.

    Her incantation leads 1,500 years old vampire Matthew Clairmont to Bishop as well as the now, freed by her, undead who want their accidental liberator dead in case she can reverse what she wrought. Breaking the class taboo, the witch and the vampire team up to keep her safe while they investigate the origin of the species. As their attraction grows, many of the paranormal want both dead for breaking the laws of nature that forbids cross species relationships.

    Although over the top of Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower, A Discovery of Witches is a great academic fantasy in which readers will feel Deborah Harkness put a spell on us. Fast-paced with an underlying social theme and a nod to Darwin, a world of four sentient species sharing the famous library and fragile peace makes for a fun start to an engaging tale. Diana the intellectual witch and her undead protector are a fine team escorting the audience through lethal maize of paranormal who want them dead.

    Harriet Klausner

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2012


    I just read a number of reviews from other "readers." Did we all read the same book or are many of you out there who read the first chapter then spew your venomous opinions. I bought this book on a whim, having never seen "Twilight" or read Ann Rice. I'm new to this little nitch of the literary world and glad I found it. To appreciate the genius and skill of this author takes one thing-imagination! If you allow yourself to be pulled into the story and the great adventure it becomes, it's a fantastic ride. I read it cover to cover (forsaking sleep at times) and laughed at the ending because it was perfect-both an ending and a beginning. I've since reread the book several times to get more of the detail and nuance the author weaves in so skillfully. I am anxiously awaiting July and the sequel. For you negative types, don't buy it, don't pretend to read it, and don't post more drivel posing as a review.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2011

    good read, couldnt put it down

    I thought it was a great read, but didnt know that it was a series...cant wait for the rest to get here...

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    This is the best book I have read in 3 years!!!!

    I loved this book not only for it's supernatural elements but also for the amount of research Deborah Harkness put into its pages. I felt like I was actually there. In Oxford. She was so descriptive. And the book did not have the ending I thought it would. I can't wait to read the next book. I don't know how to give this book the review it deserves without spoiling it for potential readers. The characters are so much more than they seem in the first few chapters. They are full of surprise dynamics that I have never seen before. She gives new meaning to some of our cliches we have about love and the way people love. Nothing in this book is at all what it seems in the first few chapters. And opposite what some of the reviews are saying, all the small details have a direction and a purpose. All the small things explain all the big things. This is a very good read. I think it's quite different from most supernatural books I've read and I am very much anticipating Shadow of Night. If its anything like ADOW then it will definitely not disappoint. Officially my new favorite book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    It took me a couple chapters to figure out if I liked "A Discovery of Witches" or not. But once the author found her stride, I fell in love with the book and couldn't put it down. There is an element of Anne Rice to author Deborah Harkness' style - very addictive. And although the book deals with witches, demons, and vampires - you don't have to be a genre junkie to enjoy it (ala "The Vampire Lestat"). ALSO RECOMMENDED: "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest", "Cutting for Stone", "Blood Lust: a My Fractured Life saga", "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," and "11/22/63"

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    Highly Recommend

    Please forgo all of the idiots that rated this book with one star because of the price. This is an excellent book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope to be reading more from this author.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended!

    OMG this book is super fantastic and amazing!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    This could possibly be one of the most intriguing, imaginative,

    This could possibly be one of the most intriguing, imaginative, and spellbinding books I have ever read.  The first review that I read threw me off a little, as it compared Discovery to Twilight.  Please do not think that this is anything like Twilight, for Harkenss is an exceptional writer.  I also read a review that said that it could have been shorter and without as much detail.  However, I love the detail and it all falls into place once you begin reading the second and third books in the trilogy.  So in a nutshell...Diana, is a well-educated alchemy historian who is completing research at Oxford.  She also happens to be a witch, but one who does not know how to use her powers.  Diana comes across a old mysterious manuscript that ends up changing her entire life.  She meets the elusive Matthew Clairmont, a vampire scientist, who has the strong urge to protect Diana.  Eventually,, and very unsurprisingly, they fall in love and the world they both new is changed....dramatically.  

    The reason I gave this book 5 stars is not just because the plot is exciting and thrilling, but I gave it 5 stars because of the literary techniques Harkness uses to draw in her readers.  She does a magnificent job developing her characters and uses so much literary, scientific, and historical imagery that it consistently kept me on my toes.  You can tell that Harkenss is a scholar in her own right by how she writes, and I sincerely enjoyed all of the literary references.  

    If you are looking for a great read to get tangled into, this is it.  Harkness has just matched Gabaldon, my favorite current author, in the way that both can intertwine historical and fantasy fiction so seamlessly.   

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    A Discovery of Witches. Deborah Harkness Review from Jeannie Ze

    A Discovery of Witches. Deborah Harkness
    Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.
    I bought this book back in March 2011, totally by mistake... I very rarely buy hardbacks, and certainly not from an author new to me, but I am SO GLAD I made this error as it's still one of my top reads of all time. Then came the kindle – ironically in April 11, Him Indoors kept pushing me to get one, fed up of piles of dusty books....I love it. ( am on kindle no three now..) I’ve long wanted to replace my favourite reads with kindle editions, as I find print books really hard to read now due to eye problems. So when I saw this for review I had to request it :) I did a quick review after I’d bought it in mar 11, but that was before my blog/reviewer hobby got started...
    So, re reading it brought me back into that fabulous world of shadowy creatures, puzzles to be solved, fabulous characters and houses that have a mind of their own....
    Diana is a powerful witch but refuses to train in or use her magic, except for a few occasions, repairing washing machine for example and preventing damage to neighbours flat...then she's researching in the Bodleian one day and can't quite reach the book she needs. Its getting late, no one is around so she calls for it with magic. Then gets a massive shock when she sees/feels it's spelled, and she's been able to open it. She takes a brief look before returning it, worried about the consequences. Her opening it hasn't gone unnoticed though, its a book thought to be lost for hundreds of years, and witches, vampires and daemons all want to get to it, so they start trailing Diana round thinking she'll recall it. Then danger begins from those impatient to stop another group getting their hands on it. Vampire Matthew is curious, he's known about the book, but like others unsure if it was real or not. When he sees Diana recall it he's curious, watches her closely the next few days, and gradually finds himself drawn to her, despite the rules forbidding creatures mixing with each other, and witches and vampires having a long held hatred and mistrust. He protects Diana several times, and gradually she starts to trust him and they fall in love. They decide the only way to stop the danger is to find the book, but when she tries to request it again its gone....lost again supposedly.
    Diana is great, I understood her stance on magic, but as she grows more powerful with her magic taking over and causing problems, its clear she needs help. Matthew is very old, hundreds of years, so he's seen and done much, and yet he's a very quiet, unassuming vampire on the surface, though his reputation is fearsome. I loved him right from the start, somehow he's so gentlemanly outwardly, but the the vampire traits show through, and we see he's so much more than he seems. He's not afraid for himself, but when it comes to his family – and now to Diana – he's incredibly protective, and will take any measures necessary to protect them, even killing should it be needed, and he won't have second thoughts about it. Its that blend of kindness, protectiveness and ruthlessness that makes him so fascinating to me. He's also been researching into gene research among other things, as all the Creatures populations are declining, with births being more and more scarce. Its rumoured the missing book holds information on this, and also how to kill vampires, so the vampires are of course very keen not to let others get it.
    As always there are good and bad in all segments of creature, and there are some creel and fearsome witches and vampires out to capture Diana, and through her the book. Her parents were killed many years before, and she discovers that their death was not as innocent as she thought, and that humans were not behind it as she'd believed. The search for the book takes them from UK to France and back, and then to Diana's home; along the journey meeting Matthews family, and Diana's aunts who brought her up. There are many other interesting people that join them along the way, and some incredible dangerous ones too, and as Matthew feels more and more protective of Diana, unusual for a vampire and witch, they discover they have feelings for each other and their love story begins. Though the book is mainly their story, and the search for the missing tome, its a fabulous read, introducing some incredible characters, magical – in both ways – story-lines, and of course The House. That's where Diana was brought up and her aunts still live, and its an amazing building having a life of its own, adding on rooms and furniture when it thinks visitors coming, and hiding and revealing all manner of things.
    Its not a quick read, took me two-three days - and I read quickly - as its so intense and packed with detail. Its 608 pages on kindle for £3.99, and I feel its a real bargain and it's one I will ( and have) re read over and over. I'm going to re-read the second book which I have in hardback ( but may buy kindle version instead, so much easier for me to read on kindle) prior to release of the final part of the trilogy this summer. I'm so looking forward to how the story ends :) It amazes me just how much detail and information Deborah has managed to get into this book, without it becoming at any time dull, boring, an info dump, as so often happens. My brain can only cope with so much before shouting “enough now” and that didn't happen once in this novel( or in book two). She's a really talented author to be able to do this, and still create such a readable, riveting and complex story IMO.
    ARC provided via Netgalley
    Stars: Five, one that is in my top all time reads.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

    Under her spell!

    It takes quite a lot for a book to draw me in the way this book did. I was drawn into Diane and Williams world of forbidden love, history, and magic. It was like everytime I finished a chapterand thought to take a break I wanted nothing more than to dive back into their world and story. Best book I have read in sometime.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

    Interesting twist

    ... on the typical vampire lore out there today. I love this series and have pre-ordered the last book. It's a nice mix of history, magic and relationships and very rarely could I guess what was coming next--always a win!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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