Vampires and Witches and Daemons, Oh My! (The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness)

November 12, 2015 Supernatural, Time Travel, Vampires 21

Good Morrow, Bookworms!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A witch, a daemon, and a vampire walk into a bar… Oh wait, you know that one? That’s kind of what I thought too, when I started reading the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I decided to review the series as a whole, because I totally binge listened to them and this way I can limit spoilers with carefully placed vagaries. I’ll probably screw up and reveal stuff because I’m me, so take this as your spoiler alert if you’re super spoiler averse. Spoiler sounds funny if you say it over and over again. Spoiler. Spoooooiiiiiillllllllleeerrrrrrr.

Basic plot overview: Historian/professor/reluctant witch Diana Bishop finds herself drawn into an ancient mystery all while falling head over heels in love with a vampire/doctor/research fellow/polyglot Matthew Clairmont. A mysterious, bewitched alchemical manuscript revealed itself to Diana and as a result she draws the interest of every daemon, witch, and vampire in the greater Oxford region. Diana and Matthew’s attraction is forbidden by a shadowy organization whose chief function is to prevent the intermingling of creatures lest they be discovered by the hapless humans surrounding them (Volturi, anyone?) Diana and Matthew need to acquire the book, discover the secrets it holds, and figure out their relationship before the world around them implodes. Or something. It’s a big deal, okay?


A Discovery of Witches was the first book in the crew and I found it disturbingly Twilight -ish… At least in the beginning. Diana (who doesn’t realize she’s beautiful and talented) can’t figure out why devastatingly handsome vampire Matthew has a thing for her. She falls for him, he tries to push her away despite his desperate passion, you know the drill. As things progressed, I got a little less grumpy because there was some science (highly fictionalized science, mind, we’re talking about vampires, daemons, and witches, after all) and pseudo-science. Namely alchemy. Everyone knows that alchemy is the process by which people who didn’t understand the periodic table of elements attempted to turn metal into gold. It’s obviously not a thing that can happen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fascinating from a historical perspective, so that was pretty fun.


Shadow of Night was the second book in the bunch, and reminded me of the second Outlander novel, Dragonfly in Amber in approximately 18 zillion ways. Only, you know. Vampires and witches and daemons. Oh my. There were a ton of cameos by famous historical figures because OF COURSE. Vampires don’t just chill with chimney sweeps. They get all up in art and literature and philosophy and politics. They also adopt street urchins, but as much as I liked Jack, he’s no Fergus. (From Outlandernatch. My word this isn’t very coherent if you haven’t read every single book I’ve read, is it?)


The Book of Life was the final installment of the series, and while it contained elements I recognized from other series, none of the comparisons are as pronounced as with the first two books. In fact, it felt a little more spy thriller than supernatural time-traveling love story at times. Intrigue and justice and the righting of old wrongs all came into play.

I know this was meant to be a trilogy, but I kind of feel like Harkness left a number of loose ends that she could neatly dovetail into an offshoot series, prequel, or future installments. I’d probably read them if she wrote them. I’m not completely in thrall to the series, but I’d be willing to invest some more time in this world. If you’re in the mood for the supernatural, it’s definitely worth a read.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Have you read the All Souls TrilogyDid you see the same parallels I did? What did you think?

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21 Responses to “Vampires and Witches and Daemons, Oh My! (The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness)”

  1. Nish

    I didn’t get beyond the first book. It was decent while I read it, but I never fell in love with Mathew and Diana as a couple, and never went back to the series.

    • Words For Worms

      I think the fact that I just couldn’t get into Matthew as a romantic hero was what sort of tainted my read. He was fine, but seriously lacking in swoon factor for me. Then again, it’s nigh on impossible to live up to the standard set by Jamie Fraser.

  2. thatashgirl

    I totally made the same comparisons because duh, we’ve totally read the same books. I had a love/hate relationship with this series. I thought it was way too long and boring at times and found Diana a bit of a pain in the ass. That being said I totally enjoyed it. I listened to the first on Scribd but then read the remaining 2 because seriously….the narrator when she was doing some of the accents just KILLED ME. Marthe? The bad French accent killed me.

    • Words For Worms

      I actually thought the narrator was pretty good. Then again, I don’t really know from French accents. The only accents I usually notice are weird is when non-Americans do an American accent. It’s just

  3. Becca

    I enjoyed The Discovery of Witches, though, like you, the beginning was very meh. I got into it when the plot became more than “why is that brooding anti-hero following me around?” I couldn’t get into Shadow of Night, though. Everything in the book changed – the secondary characters, the plot, the setting. It didn’t feel like the same kind of book and it lost me. Plus, I kind of hated Matthew’s group of friends in the 2nd book. I couldn’t keep them straight. It was like ‘which poser is this now?’

    • Words For Worms

      Ugh yeah his pals were pretty annoying in Elizabethan England. Except Henry. I liked him. It was a weird departure to make, too, considering there’d been so much invested in the secondary characters in the present.

    • Dana

      I had the EXACT same experience. Book one was ok (eventually), but I hated the second book. To the point of not even being interested in reading book three. And seeing book two compared to the second Outlander book pretty much clinches that I won’t bother with that one either. As I’ve mentioned, I think I’m one of about five people on Earth that didn’t like Outlander.

  4. Andi

    Heather and I had such fun with this one. There was a lot of eye rolling in the first book, a lot of waiting for something to happen in the second, but I was fairly satisfied with the final installment. Fun, fun!

    • Words For Worms

      Please tell me a transcript of your exchanges exists somewhere. I Facebooked Heather at the beginning of the first book saying “seriously when are they gonna hook up already?” And she was all “yeah he’s kind of Edward Cullen about the hanky panky.” She was right. As always.

  5. Megan M.

    I felt the same as Nish. I read the first one and enjoyed it all right, but never bothered to read the sequels. Oh, well.

  6. Michelle

    I loved this entire series. I once heard it described as Twilight for adults, which I totally get. For me, not only is is better written than either Twilight or Outlander, I like the character dynamics and development. Harkness really takes the time to set up each of her characters and the setting, adding a lot of history and drama along the way. It remains one of my favorite series of all time.

  7. Heather

    Well, I happen to have read the same books as you, so I totally understand what you’re trying to get at. It’s just so hard to deal with time travelers who are nowhere near as cool as the Doctor or Claire. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Diana, but I didn’t love her like I love Claire… and Matthew Clairmont is nowhere near the dashing amazing hero that Jamie Fraser is. I did enjoy the storyline and all the interactions with the different historical figures (and the repercussions that certain actions brought about)… but I felt like too much was left unanswered. The series also seemed to end to quickly for me, so I felt like I had a lot of unanswered questions.

    • Words For Worms

      YES! Like, Diana was fine, but Claire is more awesome and it’s impossible not to compare them. Plus Matthew. I just didn’t find him dashing or sexy or anything. He lacked a certain something… I found all the love scenes super awkward too, so that didn’t help the swoon factor.

  8. Ciska @ Ciska's Book Chest

    I enjoyed the series. Nothing serious but if I need not to serious reading materials because my head is not working I pick up books like this… or Twilight. Though the All Souls Trilogy is way better in writing.
    I actually enjoyed the second book with all the history though I can understand where the whole this is taking to long feeling is coming from.
    Harkness will be having a new book in 2016 “The Serpent’s Mirror” which is going to pick up on one of those loose ends.

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