Rated Reads

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls trilogy, book one)

by Deborah Harkness

Rated: Moderate

Diana Bishop is a scholar who specializes in the history of science, namely the period of time when science began to supplant magic. She knows a bit more than the average scholar about magic, too, since she’s a witch, descended from a respected line of witches. But since the murders of her magically talented parents when she was seven years old, Diana has decided to ignore her magical background and natural skills and focus solely on life as humans live it. So she spends her time immersed in old manuscripts in libraries, studying alchemy. But one day in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, she comes across an alchemical manuscript that is clearly bewitched, and even though she sends it right back to the stacks after analyzing it, her discovery draws all kinds of creatures to the library and forces her to begin facing her true self.

She soon meets a vampire named Matthew Clairmont, who is one of the creatures who desperately want to see the manuscript Diana found. He tells her she is in grave danger and that he can help her to stay safe. Of course, she has no desire to be “protected” by a vampire, and her aunt warns her to stay clear as well; Sarah reminds her that not only are vampires dangerous, but vampires, daemons and witches aren’t supposed to mix because they’re more likely to attract the attention of humans when they do.

But Matthew is persistent, and he wears down Diana’s resolve. The two fall in love, putting themselves in further danger from powerful and determined creatures. As they try to steer clear of other witches and vampires alike, they eventually find out that much more is going on than they had realized.

A Discovery of Witches weaves history, science, magic and folklore into one complex, very satisfying story. It’s hard to put down, but so much is going on that I didn’t want to rush through to the end; I wanted to savor each bit and make sure I didn’t miss anything. The only drawback to this engaging novel is that it’s the first in a trilogy, which means I must now wait another year to read more.

Rated: Moderate. There is some mild and occasionally moderate language. There are a few scenes of sexuality; one is just a little too detailed to be rated mild. The book also has some mild violence.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

9 Responses to A Discovery of Witches (All Souls trilogy, book one)

  1. Terry says:

    I’ve looked and looked…what is the name of the second book after “A Discovery of Witches”…is there a prior book? I understand there is a “trilogy.”

    • Natalie says:

      I loved this book so much that i finished it in 3 days. i just could not stop reading it. Looking forward to the next one in the trilogy.

    • Jessica says:

      The second book is titled Shadow of Night and is expected to come out in the summer of 2012.

  2. This is the first book in the series, and it was just published in February 2011. The book flap says the second book will be published in 2012. So far I haven’t seen anywhere that says the name of the second book, though.

  3. Angela Thompson says:

    Im wondering the same for the title of the second book.. Need something to look forward to in 2012.

  4. Larissa Maria Ramos says:

    I really like this book and I am desperatly awaiting the second book. All I know the series is called “All Souls” Series. I hope everyone enjoys it!

  5. Chad Vinson says:

    I just finished with book 1 (“A Discovery of Witches”) and loved it so much. I paced my reading each night b/c I did not want the book to end, alas it did last night:( PLEASE PLEASE let the next book come out as early as possible in 2012 – maybe we could petition to get the second book published before then??

  6. Jeanette Boehme says:

    I loved the book! As a microbiologist, I noticed a couple of errors. Small pox is a virus, not a ‘bacteria’ as the book said. Also, when you receive a small pox vaccination, cow pox virus is used, not small pox virus. Therefore, you can’t get or give small pox from a vaccination. The DNA stuff was right on, though.

  7. kate durrant says:

    I read this book while on a camping trip, by firelight in the dead of the night! I LOVED it…so much so, I have already re-read it twice more! HURRY WITH THE SECOND BOOK!

  • A Discovery of Witches (All Souls trilogy, book one)
  • by Deborah Harkness
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: