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A Discovery of Witches: Book Review

Updated: Oct 29, 2023


A Discovery of Witches book.

*This review may contain spoilers.


I have never been one to read romance novels. I will ready fantasy, and will accept a romantic sub-plot, but I haven't intentionally sought out a fantasy romance. A Discovery of Witches has been the exception - as well as a door to a new favourite genre (my inner, though closeted, romantic was leaping with joy).


Overview

Average Rating

3.75 stars on The StoryGraph

My Rating

5 stars

Genres

Fiction, fantasy, romance

Descriptors

Adventurous, mysterious

Pace

Slow-medium pace

CW/TW

Graphic - torture, blood, death of parent. Moderate - death, panic attacks/disorders, sexual content. Click here for a full list.

Book Summary

Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont (Source).


My Review

The story of Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont is intense, suspenseful, and deeply romantic. But more than that, the worldbuilding is expansive and well developed. I found myself enchanted with the characters, their dynamics, and their thorough backgrounds.


A Forbidden Love

I have tried writing a forbidden love a few times. There's something about it that is so fascinating to me. I could care less about two characters that hate each other and want nothing to do with the other - but two characters that love each other with every fiber of their being that are forced apart, now that I can get behind.


Not only is it considered taboo for two different creatures to be in a relationship, there's an order called the Congregation who will go to great lengths to separate the couple or kill one or both of them.


The Congregation is made up of three vampires, three witches, and three daemons. They mostly try to keep creatures out of human politics and religions, but they have this fear of the unknown. Part of this fear is warranted. More than two creatures in a room together tends to draw human attention. But they also have no idea what could happen if two different creatures were to have children. I think they are trying to stop Diana and Matthew mostly because of this fear, because they don't want to think about the unknowns of their futures (which speaks volumes about the vampires really, who don't worry about the passage of time).


The Lore

I cannot say I've read a vampire book. I've watched plenty of movies, but have never sat down to read about it. I found myself interested in knowing how the three creatures in the book: vampires, daemons, and witches, would be portrayed. And I was more than happy to learn about Harkness's take on such traditional matters.


The Witches

Harkness's witches have access to all kinds of magic: spells, potions, elemental magic, and more. But these types of magic had to be passed down through bloodlines. I was more than intrigued with Matthew Clairmont being a geneticist and how Harkness added that in to help explain how magic and bloodlines worked.


The Vampires

As for vampires, I liked the different take on how one becomes a vampire. It's different than anything else I've seen. Instead of a quick "drink the vampire's blood and be done with it," Harkness added in a subtle twist - not only does the person have to drink a vampire's blood, but their body must first be drained of blood. It then becomes this risky undertaking. Add in the fact that recent turnings aren't working for some reason, it becomes deadly.


The Daemons

Daemons. I loved the daemons. I feel like they were all little trickster spirits whose sole job was to wreak havoc and chaos just because they could. And yet Harkness didn't stop there, she had key characteristics, but made each individual daemon have a different purpose and personality. Too often you see creatures and monsters in stories and they are all portrayed the same, given the same personality. I liked that this was different.


The Twists and Turns

None of what I predicted actually came to fruition. Instead I was pleasantly surprised with the twists and turns of this story.


I think this is half the reason I was so engaged in this novel, I wanted to know what happened because the closer I got to the end the more I knew that Harkness would surprise me yet again with a quick twist I couldn't predict.


Some Extras

Favourite Character

Ysabeau de Clermont (Matthew's mother)

Least Favourite Character

Gerbert of Aurillac

Favourite Couple

Besides Diana and Matthew, I loved Sarah and Emily together.

Finishing the Series?

Yes! As soon as I can get my hands on book two and three (and get through some of my physical tbr).

This was the only book I got through in May (which is typical for me), but what was your favourite read last month? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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