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Summary

Now a major Sky original production.

The number on international and Sunday Times best seller.

A Discovery of Witches is the first in the must-have, must-listen All Souls trilogy. 

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

Diana Bishop, a young scholar and descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she must navigate with a vampire, Matthew Clairmont.

This manuscript, Ashmole 782, holds the secrets of their past...and the key to their future. 

©2011 Deborah Harkness (P)2011 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Rich, thrilling...captivating." (E. L. James)

"Intelligent and off-the-wall." (The Sunday Times)

"A bubbling cauldron of illicit desire." (Daily Mail)

What listeners say about A Discovery of Witches

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    3,142
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    790
  • 3 Stars
    275
  • 2 Stars
    111
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Performance
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    2,672
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    231
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    65
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Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    2,706
  • 4 Stars
    591
  • 3 Stars
    242
  • 2 Stars
    92
  • 1 Stars
    98

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A surprisingly mature paranormal romance

What strikes me most about this novel is its intelligence. The author pays her readers the compliment of assuming they are intelligent and will keep up. It's packed with references to history, mythology, genetics and the human genome project, philosophy, Yoga and Eastern spiritualism, traditional values vs feminism, natural history...the discussion of how alchemical principles might have inspired Darwin's theory of evolution is simply brilliant. And on top of that, it has an engaging plot, rounded characters, an original take on the genre and a satisfying ending that nonetheless leaves me eager for the sequel.

The central romance between Diana Bishop, a witch, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire, develops slowly. These characters aren't teenagers and their relationship is complex and convincing: no love-at-first-sight or adolescent babblings about unconditional love. They aren't soulmates; in fact they have some serious personality conflicts that aren't fully resolved by the end. Diana's independence doesn't sit well with Matthew's old-fashioned values and protective nature. But they work these things out.

Their relationship plays out against a backdrop of a supernatural world that lives within our own. The 'creatures' do their best to keep their existence a secret from humans but don't always seem to succeed.

If the novel has a fault, it's a bit heavy on the exposition, sometimes at the expense of moving the plot onward. Occasionally, significant events are kind of rushed through, with minimal detail, which when it's an audiobook means if your attention wanders, you can miss important information. Also, the narrator really should have learned how to pronouce the names of the Oxford colleges; the mispronunciation is really irritating but that's only in the first act.

I really enjoyed this novel and recommend it to any reader who is, like me, tired of the Twilight-clones. This has superficial similarities to Twilight, but it's a far superior work.

118 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Yet another Twilight/50 Shades book where the female protagonist is controlled by the male and it’s dressed up as yearning

My following critique focuses on the story rather than the performance of the narrator who I found to be excellent.

This book had great potential. I had actually watched a couple of episodes of the TV series first and thought it warranted reading the books. It was an intriguing premise, a world in which vampires, witches and demons walks amongst humans. Even better, it started off in a library, with great attention paid to search rooms and research, old tomes and mysterious manuscripts. I was looking forward to a detective story involving ancient crimes, magic and romance.

However, I am 15 hours in and nothing has really happened. I enjoy slow moving books when the writing is good but the quality here feels cliched and frankly, a bit silly. The magical manuscript, Ashmole 782, discovered in chapter one which more than piqued my interest has barely been mentioned since and the majority of the last 10+ hours have focused on the will they-won’t they between the 2 main characters. I love a bit of sexual tension but for the love of god GET ON WITH IT! If I have to listen to one more yearning description of Matthew’s cold skin and masterly posture, I’m going to go looking for Ashmole 782 myself!

I would say that the book is written in a similar way to 50 Shades of Grey, but without the sexual content. Even more similar as a comparison is Twilight and it’s similar in the most disturbing way: the female protagonist is increasingly portrayed as weak and vulnerable, needing to be in the care of the male love interest, Matthew. The further through the book I get, the more controlled she is, told when to go to bed, when to eat, how to exercise, where to live and so on. The male character even sedated her at one point. When not around, Matthew gets his various minions to ‘guard’ her, meaning that her control over her own actions are simply passed over to others in his command. It is dressed up as being down to the ‘nature’ of vampires but isn’t this just another excuse for making women submissive to men and their desires? And in case you are wondering, from what I know of sub-dom relationships, this is not it though I am certainly no expert. For me the literary relationship has become one of psychological abuse dressed up as romantic yearning and a reaction to potential danger - it makes me very uncomfortable.

So, 15 hours in, I’ve decided to give up. I’d be very interested to see what others think of this book and whether I am alone in my response to the characters.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Enthralled

I really loved this book and cant wait for the authur to produce a sequel. It was pure fantasy and escapism. The narrator is also very good, it was most enjoyable and got me through hours of sewing in a world of my own.

Thank you

44 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

A 24 hour long overture.

Painful.
On the positive side: The characters are quite good and after the book was finished I was actually quite interested to know what happened to them
On the negative side: As other's have said NOTHING HAPPENS. It's basically a 24 hour scene setting for the next book. When it stopped I immediately checked my library as I thought I hadn't downloaded the final part. Unfortunately as I've given up 24 hours listening to the intro it's very likely that I'll listen to the next one whenever it comes out as it can't surely be as slow as this one. Can it?
My wife is listening to it now and she has exactly the same comments. 18 hours in and still waiting for it to 'start'.
Should compress all this in the first 3 hours then write the rest of a decent book.

Plus the *worst* scottish accent I've ever heard that nearly ruined the book for me.

In summary: 3 hours of action spread across 24 hours, but if you make it to the end, you'll probably want to read the next one whenever it appears.

30 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyed this!

I am unashamedly a Twighlight fan. This book is not Twilight....it's more grown up, possibly a little darker. Still, I found it equally enjoyable on the whole fantasy/vampire/witches side of things, and am eagerly anticipating the next book in the series....

The narrator's accent takes some getting used to - but it doesn't distract from the story too much.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Stunned

Like a lot of paranormal romance, this isn't very well written. There are some interesting premises but also some huge flaws. We are told the main character, Dianna, is beautiful, ridiculously young, has a soaring IQ and a PhD in History from Yale but does inexplicably moronic thing after moronic thing to save the author's ass from some very dodgy plotting. The main love interest is - well, what you'd expect for this sort of a thing - dark, tall, handsome and shallowly drawn. Very much like Twilight, we are left to puzzle why a 1,500 year-old vampire would be remotely interested in the MC. In this case, the explanation is a combo of genetics and fate. It sure isn't her uncanny analytical skills.

However, considering the genre, none of these things would cause me to give the book such a low rating.

What did is was that, after suffering through 23 hours of an unnecessarily convoluted set of sub-plots that never resolve, the listener is left completely in the lurch. I'm not joking. 23 hours of NOTHING HAS HAPPENED YET.

Obviously Ms Harkness is planning on a series. After suffering through some truly nauseating purple prose (no one can actually just walk anywhere, they have to scuttle, scamper or prowl), the lack of anything remotely resembling even partial resolution was truly infuriating. It's a real breach of trust between writer and reader.

I won't be stupid enough to spend my money or time on any sequel. If the author didn't know better, the editor or the publisher should have.

79 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Totally absorbing

Despite the surfeit of books on witches and vampires currently around I found this one totally addictive. The dog was walked rather more frequently than usual when I was listening to this. Based, to start with, in my home city of Oxford it moved on to France and then the USA. A witch who doesn't want to be a witch falling in love with a vampire who is of course wonderfully handsome and clever and rich. I found it amazingly believable and my only complaint was the US pronounciation of 'herbs' as 'erbs' which irritated me - but that's my only complaint! Brilliant book!

24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Oh dear

Why is it always the same! This book starts out with a (fairly) strong willed and intelligent lead female. The story however quikly degenerates into scene after scene of bad choices resulting in predictable rescues.
The problem with this book, when everything is stripped away, is two dimensional characters and a confused plot. You cannot have a woman in your lead who is strong willed and intelligent making such innane comments and choices. Aside from a plot line that never irons itself out, there are characters who seem to act without any real in-depth motivation. This book lost me when I began tutting at the lead characters comments and feeling more and more annoyed with them. You cannot empathise with a character that unfortunately leaves you frustrated 90% of the time.
The premise shows some foresight and originality, but it is poorly executed with its mind set on a sequal rather than making it a complete piece of fiction in its own right. No one expects this to be Shakespeare, but within its genere it really only ever manages to stay in its genre and does nothing original or new. In the end it is a story that only ever really ends up being generic. Such a shame

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

almost speechless

Run-of-the-mill. More explicit than Twilight (these are consenting adults after all) yet less offensive than some people might find Ann Rice.

Plot is drawn-out and prose is rather hard to stomach in places. The characters are shallow and one-dimensional. The author clearly sees no value in feminist thought or doesn't understand it, as the main female character is rapidly infantelised and the main male character is given the psychological depth of a dog. The setting keeps the reader in an aristocrat bubble, further reducing this novel to being a slightly wet, albeit elaborate, teenage daydream.

That said, I enjoyed the first third, which is interesting enough and even witty in places, although the latter may well be due to Jennifer Ikeda endearing way of performing accents.

37 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

One of the few books I can't finish

Let me begin by saying I'm not going to give it the excuse of me not being the target audience, because great art appeals to everyone.

When I went in, I didn't think I was in for a Twilight-esq tale but I was down for it. I enjoy near-everything I come across (at least to an extent) and I've only ever quit one book before this one.

This performance was solid and the prose was powerful. The romance was gripping and passionate and you really felt the world come alive. That said, every other aspect of the story was utterly unbearable.

There's just nothing inventive about it. It's just generic vampire/witch/demon drama acting as an empty driving point to showcase how powerful and intelligent and handsome the love interest is. I get the need for a reveal but I'm halfway through and I'm just thinking "surely there has to be more to this than wanting to know about evolution"

Any tension (and solutions that come with it) feel manufactured to the point of hilarity. Lofty academics and ancient entities, but everyone acts like they're in high school. "Quick, I need to take you to a castle in France for no reason!"

I get that it's primarily a romance novel but there could have been stronger plot points to actually move the story along.

It is nice that the author takes the time to world build, but like everything else it just feels empty. I just don't have enough stake in this world to care about its intricacies.

I also find the whole dynamic super creepy. The age difference I could usually get over, but not when it's paired with constant threat and the fact that he's clearly a substitute for her father.

The romance was just so flawed in its perfection. I just don't see the appeal of some stunning/flawless/intellectual love interest. It just casts a shadow on an otherwise-strong female lead. She rapidly went from a powerful witch and accomplished mind, to a giddy schoolgirl who needs hand-holding and protection.

Give me someone dark, someone downtrodden, someone with a soul or figure that borders on unlovable. Not this pseudo-flawed, hyper-charming vampire who's biggest issue is "Oh no! I'm just too passionate and protective and beautiful!" It's just gratuitous.

TL;DR: The book feels like a long-winded erotica. That said the writing is solid and well balanced and I have no qualms with the performance, so if you're horny and/or have daddy issues then I say give it a shot.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eleanor
  • 30-04-12

Wonderful book

Absolutely adored this book. Erudite, dripping with history, wonderful and funny writing - could not put it down. The whole idea of the book is fascinating - make you look at people and on the street and wonder "Are they........?" Will not spoil it, but her theory could explain why psychiatry does not really work all the time!! The narrator Jennifer Ikeda was excellent....was able to do a variety of accents - a very creditable Australian accent, which so few seem able to manage, French (ancient and modern) and a Glaswegian accent!!!

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • GinnysHex
  • 05-10-11

Wonderful

I read the book before I bought the audiobook and though I enjoyed the book greatly I love the audiobook even more. I loved the different accents Jennifer Ikeda did for the characters and I hope that when Deborah Harkness finishes and release the next book that Jennifer Ikeda will do the next one as well.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rae
  • 28-04-12

Loved it.

Any additional comments?

Narration was excellent. Like to list narration first as it can make or break a story.

Love the story and will be looking forward to the next installment.

I really enjoy it when readers with similar reading interests list their favourite authors and series. It really helps me find new authors too follow. Mine are Charlaine Harris, Jeaniene Frost, Jennifer Estep, Faith Hunter, Molly Harper, Ilona Andrews, Kresley Cole, Deborah Harkness, Nalini Singh.

Happy Reading

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • zoe
  • 21-03-11

Mesmirising characters and story

This was the first book i have listened to by Deborah Harkness. I had no expectations, and i have been pleasantly surprised. I love the way the story melds together modern life and witchcraft with strong romance between the 2 main characters. The only negative about the audiobook is the narrator, which is a small negative and is easily forgotten about when drawn into the story, unfortunately she changes her pitch in quite unexpected places where its not necessary. All in all its an intriguing story, I definitely recommend it.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-04-12

Only stopped listening to sleep!

Any additional comments?

This is the first time I felt I needed to write about any of the books I have listened to and I have been listening to audio books for four years, now it seems I am lost for words. This is a highly addictive story with full characters that you will become attached too. Jennifer Ikeda spins the story with beauty and care making it difficult to stop listening even when I was falling asleep. I cannot wait for the next book to continue this amazing journey.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Melissa
  • 25-04-11

More More More

Loved the story. Loved the narrator. This is my first Deborah Harkness book....come on Audible, we need more of this author!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Lizzy
  • 19-12-11

Not normally my cup of team but ....

This is not something I would normally bother with. Vampires and witches - really! However, I really did enjoy this book very much. The story wasn't predictable and the characters were almost human.

I particularly liked the conflict between the different creatures. Similar to prejudices we face in real life with race and culture. The moral is that nothing is too great that it can't be overcome.

Highly recommend this book.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Linda
  • 23-06-11

Great

I loved listening to this story. The open ended final chapter leaves plenty of scope for a sequel...........please!!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bec the Aussie
  • 03-06-19

Absolutely loved it.

Absolutely loved the audible version. The pacing made it very easy to understand the complexity os the scenes.
The narrator had a pleasant voice the you could fully immerse yourself with.
Very very enjoyable story.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 13-05-19

Fantastic storytelling

Great characters, beautiful romance and a fantastic story! Jennifer Ikeda is a wonderful narrator who really transports you into the story that Deborah Harkness has masterfully crafted.

1 person found this helpful