Audiobook Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

RBdigital audiobook review by Jeannette

Diana Bishop is a witch, but not just any ordinary witch. She is the daughter of a warlock and a sorceress, both died under mysterious circumstances while on an anthropological expedition. Traumatized by the death of her parents she has turned her back on magic, although she is prone to sudden and uncontrollable outbursts of foreboding power. In lieu of practicing sorcery, Diana throws herself into her career as a recently tenured Yale Associate Professor of History, specializing in the history of alchemy.

During a research project at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford she requests several manuscripts; one of which is Ashmole 782. After opening the manuscript, she recognizes that the book has a spell upon it that she broke, but she does not understand how she did it. The manuscript is missing several pages and the words are shimmering and flitting across their pages appearing to chase each other. She realizes that the book is a palimpsest: the original text has been scraped off. She suspects that the manuscript contains secret messages protected by magic spells. Because she refuses to accept her birthright, she decides to return the book rather than investigating it further. The opening of the book however draws the attention of the supernatural communities including not only other witches but also daemons and vampires.

One of them is Matthew Clairmont, a 1500-year-old biochemist vampire who has been searching for Ashmole 782 for centuries believing it to be the book of the origins of vampires, witches and daemons. He is hoping to find the answers as to why these species are dying out and losing their powers. Upon learning that an inexperienced and reluctant witch has managed to call the text forth from the archives he decides to investigate.

Matthew has lived through almost every major historic event imaginable and Diana, the history buff, finds this irresistible. With centuries of life behind him Matthew has a lot of skeletons in his closet and these emerge frequently and unexpectedly. The depths of some of those secrets threatens their fragile relationship before they even have the chance to explore the dynamics of a witch and vampire liaison.

Reluctantly Diana decides to give this witchcraft thing a try in order to unlock the secrets of the manuscript. Though Matthew is there to help, she rarely actually needs his help, which he finds hard to accept.

This is the first book of the ‘All Souls Trilogy’ and I find it difficult to rate. Many parts, the history and its historical characters, alchemy, templar conspiracies and the setting of the story that takes the reader through America, Scotland, England, France, and eastern Europe, are intriguing and fascinating. The relationship between Diana and Matthew however is somewhat stereotypical and at times that was a bit frustrating.