A Discovery Of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness

Book Review Apr 15, 2021

My review

4/5 stars

I've recently binge-watched the existing two series of A Discovery Of Witches and fallen in love with Matthew and Diana's adventures. As mentioned in a previous blog, if there's a book behind something like this, I like to read the book too, for comparison.

I chose the audio-book format this time round as I had some Audible credits to use up. I enjoyed listening to it rather than reading it - the narrator made a convincing Diana and did a good job at attempting voices for all the other characters to help make it a more immersive listening experience. It was a bigger time commitment than a physical reading, as I doubt it would have taken the 25 hours listening time for me to read the book, but it was easy enough to slot into car journeys, dog walks and cleaning sessions.

I'll admit, the fact that I was familiar with the plot did help with how much I enjoyed the story. The loyalty that was shown in the conversion to TV meant that I was able to focus on the extra details that surrounded the main plot. Most of those details seemed to be extra historical detail or scientific fact, but there were some extra character titbits that proved interesting.

Diana's character was much was I expected when I started the book - hesitant, nervous and yet oddly self-assured. It was interesting, as the reader, to see the world open up through her somewhat uneducated eyes - it gave the author a chance to explain certain aspects of the plot in a natural way. Her relationship with Matthew promised to be something passionate and fascinating right from the start, but I found that it fizzled into something more saccharine as the book went on. From the moment they declared their love for one another, an element of the heat between them was lost. Don't get me wrong, their relationship development was still enjoyable to read throughout the course of the story, as they encouraged new learning and better habits in each other, but something felt lacking in the book compared to the chemistry I had already witnessed on screen between Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode. Matthew (character, not actor) felt a little different as a read character vs. a viewed character. There was a boorish over-protectiveness about him that had been played down in the TV series, perhaps because they (rightfully, in my case) deduced that viewers would find it irritating. The juxtaposition of him continually telling Diana how much power she had and then stepping between her and any kind of negative action was ridiculous at times.

Opposingly, the extra facets that I saw of some of the secondary characters was delightful. Mart was warmer and more charmingly meddlesome, Ysabeau was compassionate, Marcus was funny, Sarah was stronger and less whiny. I wanted to spend more time with all of them than I was given permission to.

I really liked the fantasy element of this book. I have read fantasy books over the years (mostly the mainstream ones like Harry Potter and Twilight), but it's not a genre I read often as it can easily feel ridiculous and overdone. Even though this book centred around a relationship between a witch and a vampire, it always felt realistically handled and classily written.

I had read other reviews of this book before I picked it up saying that it was slow and had no real plot. While I can appreciate where those readers were coming from now that I've finished the book, I have the luxury of reading it once all three parts of the series have been released so I can appreciate A Discovery Of Witches for what it is intended to be - a series introduction focused on scene setting and character development, before the action (hopefully) really kicks off in subsequent books.

I would love to be able to read at least part of this series before I've watched it on TV, so I'll be downloading the second audio-book, Shadow of Night, as soon as I have an Audible credit available for it. It would be wrong of me to pretend that watching the show first hadn't altered how I felt about the book (probably positively and negatively), so it would be interesting to see if reading the third book first has any effect on how I watch the third series.

All in all, I enjoyed this book about as much as I expected to - a nice mix of history, science, fantasy and romance, and something slightly outside of the comfort of my normal reading fare.

Book blurb

It begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches.

Fall under the spell of Diana and Matthew in the stunning first volume of the No.1 internationally bestselling ALL SOULS trilogy.

A world of witches, daemons and vampires.

A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.

Diana and Matthew - the forbidden love at the heart of it.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she's kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels...


You can buy the book here now. It was published by Headline.

For more on the author, you can head to her website, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Goodreads page.