Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:
Synopsis for A Discovery of Witches (from Goodreads):
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
Series: All Souls, All Souls Trilogy
Author: Deborah Harkness
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological (#1-3); Connected (#4)
Genre: Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Vampires, Witches, Magic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First and Third Person
Publication Dates: February 2011 – July 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover (#1); Audiobook (#2-#4)
Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:
My co-worker (who has similar reading tastes to me) recommended this series to me. I’m not a huge fan of witches in stories and I told him that, but he assured me that it was more science-based than magic. He did warn me that it was overly detailed but the meat of the story was good. So I put myself on the endless holds list and waited a very long time to finally read it…and the sequels, eventually.
The Concept / The World:
The scientist in me loves the science behind this series. Approaching the world of paranormal creatures with a scientific spin is something that doesn’t get done much in the paranormal world (it’s always just assumed they exist but not necessarily why) and I couldn’t get enough of it. Genetics, evolution, alchemy, events of modern history — it’s all there and in great detail. I loved how everything just weaved together seamlessly. I found it to be very refreshing for a fiction series and I can see why there are huge fans of this universe.
Standing at 579 pages, the hardcover version of A Discovery of Witches is quite the tome of small print and immense detail. While I enjoyed the plot and the world building, I could have gotten just as much out of the story in half the number of pages since it is so detailed.
As a result, I really struggled with the pacing of the story. At times, I felt like we would get lost in mundane details of Diana’s work and then suddenly a major development was quickly inbound. I don’t think it helps that a lot of the first book is just waiting around, trying to uncover Diana’s powers and what people want from her.
I did find the sequels to be less detail oriented. But perhaps that is the result of my choice to listen to them as audiobooks so I visually didn’t see all the details. (You can zone out a bit when you listen to the audio version). However, the foundation laid down in the first novel helped keep the focus on the dramatic plot line because you understand the crux of the world and the characters in it so I understand why that first novel is so lengthy.
I was not a huge Diana fan. She seemed a little dim to me at times in A Discovery of Witches (#1) because she couldn’t seem to connect the dots that fast. I’ll cut her some slack because I understand why some things weren’t overly apparent to her given her past…but for such a book smart lady, she isn’t the brightest. Like many heroines, her passion and compassion drive her, so she is more emotional at times than logical but she does evolve as the series progresses.
Mathew is exactly what I expect an ancient, mysterious vampire to be: an enigma. I enjoyed learning more about his character and history as the series progressed.
I loved all the side characters as well. I can see why they developed this into a TV series because there is so much to work with in terms of the cast.
I loved the tension between Diana and Mathew at the start of Book #1. The whole hate to love you thing was great. And while I didn’t necessarily expect an abundance of time to be dedicated to their romance (it isn’t a paranormal romance primarily), I thought the progression of it was a little fast. I understand why things happen like they do (and I’m not complaining because I really enjoy them as a couple). But I missed the moment when the switch went from “stay away from me” to “please stay with me always”. Guess it’s a fine line between love and hate…
Why Does a Trilogy Have 4 Books?
I was so close to posting this review when I looked again on Goodreads and saw that, there is actually a 4th book! Time’s Convert (#4) is part prequel part sequel. I personally found myself a little bored with it because the main plotline of the trilogy has been resolved. However, getting some more insight into specific characters and the ramifications of the finale was intriguing.
Does it need to exist to complete the series: no. But I think fans will enjoy the extra time in this universe.
My Audiobook Experience (Books #2-4):
So I think I switching to the audiobook was a great choice for me. Despite the immense length (I usually don’t do well with audiobooks that are more than 14 hours long), the ability to sometimes zone out while the story continued helped a lot. As did enhancing the speed to 1.75X (I usually listen to 1.5X) to make it a similar length to my usual audiobook reads.
I also think the ability to hear the emotions of the characters helped me connect with them too. I was never a big Diana fan, but I think hearing her inner monologues spoken aloud helped me understand her motives and logic more so than reading the hardback copy did.
Series Rating: 3/5
A Discovery of Witches 3/5 | Shadow of Night 3/5 | The Book of Life 3/5 | Time’s Convert 3/5
While not my favourite series of all time, I did enjoy these novels and find them entertaining. I think the TV show will be more my speed though so I’m looking forward to binging it in the near future!
Read if You Like: witches, history, vampires, paranormal, time travel
Avoid if You: dislike lengthy titles, dislike paranormal reads
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