A Discovery of Witches

Author: Deborah Harknessdiscovery
Publisher: Viking
Date: 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
ISBN: 9780670022410
Price: $33.50
Number of Pages: 579
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 3P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews




Links to Reviews



Reader’s Annotation

Diana has vowed never to practice magic until she finds a manuscript that changes her life forever.

Plot Summary

The story is about Diana Bishop, a history scholar who is studying alchemy manuscripts at Oxford University. Diana was born into a family of powerful witches. However, ever since her parents were brutally murdered when she was a child, she has vowed never to use her magic. However, there are times in which she uses magic without realizing it, like one day at the library when she accidentally calls an ancient magical manuscript called the Ashmole 782. She believes it’s just another alchemy manuscript. When she touches it, however, she senses powerful magic. Somehow, her touch unlocks a secret text within the manuscript. She attempts to send it back, but the damage has already been done. The power of the manuscript has called all of the magical creatures to Oxford that have been looking for it for centuries. One such creature is vampire Matthew Clairmont, who comes into contact with Diana and begin to fall in love with each other. Unfortunately, their romance is forbidden by the covenant, who guards the safety of magical creatures. Soon, Diana is running for her life as creatures begin hunting her for her knowledge of the Ashmole and because of her forbidden romance.

Critical Evaluation

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. The historical elements are all extremely well done and interesting. However, the romance is cliché and the book is in need of massive editing. It’s way too long and filled with pointless scenes of her talking about her clothes or what she’s eating. The first quarter of the book is all about her going to the library to study, and the scenes feel repetitive and redundant. When the romance takes off, the story does become more interesting, but there’s no getting around that a vampire romance has been done countless times before. Harkness does do a good job of trying to make it feel different by making some changes to the vampire lore, but it still feels like Twilight for grownups. I do think Diana, as a character, has a lot of potential. I like how powerful she is, but I kind of wish that her powers were delved into earlier in the book. Matthew is also an interesting character, but I think more of the focus should have been on Diana’s power rather than his history as a vampire. All in all, it’s a decent book and I may read the other two in the series.

Appeal Factors

Intricately plotted, romantic, steamy, suspenseful


The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the historical aspects of the novel, such as alchemy and the Knights of Lazarus.
  • Discuss the relationship between Diana and Matthew.
  • Discuss the congregation and their purpose.

Justification of Selection

I am not a huge fantasy reader and I wanted to try a different kind that I had for the database assignment. I thought the historical aspects of the book sounded fascinating and I was interested in reading a book about witches.


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