A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Family Saga

Publisher: Orbit on September 5, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

An ancient and dangerous power is being handed down from mother to daughter through some of the most consequential historic events of the last two centuries.View Spoiler »

A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES is a family saga following five generations of Orchiére witches, moving from their Romani roots to their impact on Britain’s war effort in WWII. Louisa Morgan’s lyrical writing evoked a sense of magic and mystery throughout the tale, but the repetitive structure of the narrative ultimately weighed it down.

Like many sweeping historical epics, each section of A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES follows a separate member of the Orchiére family. While each one lives in different circumstances, their basic stories are as follows: they learn about their magic, struggle to accept the power, a man comes along, she uses said power on him in some way, and she becomes pregnant with a daughter. This exact scenario is the story for four out of the five Orchiére women, which was disappointing because their similarities made it difficult for many of the characters to stand out.

However, there were two standouts for me: the final two POV characters, Morwen Orchiére and her daughter, Veronica. Their stories were my favourites because they each broke the mold set forth in the previous stories. Veronica’s story was particularly satisfying because she uses her power to help the war effort rather than personal or romantic gain. Her story delivered on the cool, witchy empowerment that I was hoping for from the rest of the novel.

Thematically, A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES is consistent: people mistrust, fear, and some even hate the Orchiére women because of their power. This is especially true for men, who resent the agency that the Orchiére’s exercise in a rigidly patriarchal society that should ensure men are the most powerful actors. Don’t get me wrong, this theme resonates with me and I think it’s timely, but the cyclical storytelling made it feel like a diatribe by the third or fourth time an Orchiére mother passed the lesson along to her daughter.

I think that historical fiction lovers would enjoy this book more than your typical fantasy reader, since its emphasis is on the changing circumstances for women throughout the 19th and 20th centuries rather than their magic.

Slouch Witch by Helen Harper (The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic #1)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Createspace on June 8, 2017

Source: Purchased

Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. View Spoiler »

Ivy Wilde is the world’s laziest witch…or at least, that’s what she wants everyone to think. Working as a cab driver in Oxford, she dodges customers with longer rides despite their hefty fares and spends most of her life chilling on the sofa watching her favourite soap opera, Enchanted. But all good things must come to an end, and when Ivy ends up magically shackled to a high-achieving (and disturbingly tight-laced) member of the Order, she’s roped into a high stakes investigation. It looks like her days of coasting by are done for.

SLOUCH WITCH is exactly what it seems: a fun and funny story about a heroine who’s bordering on hot-mess territory. The magic system is pretty solid and consistent, based predominantly on rune-casting, herblore, and traditional spellwork. In this universe, magic is out in the open, with people hating the Order mostly for its bureaucratic failings as opposed to prejudice against magic. Understandable, honestly. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of familiars, especially Ivy’s cat Brutus, who she’s bespelled to speak English. He’s rude and hilarious, exactly how you’d imagine a cat would be if it could talk.

Between Ivy’s wisecracks, Winter’s dry humour, and Brutus’ expletive-filled demands, I was cracking up practically the whole time. SLOUCH WITCH isn’t particularly original, but it is absolutely the purest fun I’ve had while reading in ages. If you’re looking for a sassy and silly pick-me-up read, SLOUCH WITCH fits the bill perfectly.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy #1)

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Publisher: Penguin on February 8, 2011

Source: Purchased

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. View Spoiler »

Dr. Diana Bishop is a respected historian, tenured professor, and the last in a line of witches that can trace their lineage back to Salem. Frightened by the deadly consequences of her parents’ power, Diana has rejected her magic and shuns contact with other witches. But Diana’s about to discover that destiny can rarely be denied…

When Matthew Clairmont sees Diana studying an alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the ancient vampire realizes that she’s no ordinary witch. Drawn to Diana’s leashed power – and the magical artefact she’s unwittingly discovered – Matthew gives into his predatory instincts and begins stalking her. Despite his antipathy for witches, Matthew finds Diana fascinating. Why does she deny her powers, and how did she stumble onto the world’s most sought-after magical text? And with this creepy behaviour, their epic romance is born!

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES had the potential to be a great read for me: y’all know that libraries and witches are two of my favourite bookish topics, and I’m always here for a good fantasy romance. Unfortunately, the romance was not good and the plot was even worse. Matthew’s vampiric nature aside, he’s a chauvinist and a liar. Meanwhile, we’re told that Diana is strong and independent but she folds like a stack of cards whenever he’s around. The fact that they fall in love after a week of monosyllabic conversations is just icing on the cake.

The plot is similarly bizarre, since A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES can’t decide whether it’s a romance, a mystery, or a family saga. The genre blending doesn’t work very well mostly because it feels unintentional and disorganized. Not to mention the ridiculousness of it all. Prophecies, blood feuds, twins absorbed in the womb…it was just too much.

Have you read any of these books? What are your favourite witchy stories? Let me know in the comments!


  1. I can definitely see why the repetition in the first one would be a problem. At least a couple of the stories broke the mold.

    Slouch Witch, I like that title lol. It does sound fun!

    I hadn’t even realized A Discovery of Witches had a vampire, so that got me interested, but the way you described the characters and the love… no thanks. It does sound like it had potential but just didn’t work!

    1. It’s too bad that the repetition went on so long — had it only persisted for two of the stories, it would’ve worked way better. Oh my god yes, SLOUCH WITCH is pure fun! Some people really love A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and rave about it but I just couldn’t get into it at all. It’s being adapted for TV though, and I will be checking out the show!

  2. I enjoyed “The Discovery of the Witches” because the at times crazy mix of elements of different genres worked for me surprisingly well. Btw, the mix gets even crazier in books two and three of the series and that was something I struggled with but was also absurdly fascinated by.

    1. HA! Well, I definitely understand being fascinated by all the craziness in that series — that’s sort of how I felt at points while reading A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

    • Greg Hill

    • 4 years ago

    Bummer about A Secret History of Witches, I kinda like that premise and the cover is cool too. I like the Romani roots thing too, but yeah it does sounds repetitive. Glad that at least two of the stories broke the mold a bit! And Slouch Witch is not something that I would expect to appeal to me, but after reading your review- I am interested! I love that she’s kinda lazy, and the cat too- plus rune casting and herblore- I may have to get this one!

    1. I’m so torn on A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES; it was really well-written but the repetitiveness got to me. The history though…and the feminist elements! So good. SLOUCH WITCH is great for when you need something hilarious and low on substance…and Brutus the cat is perfection. 😂

  3. I’ve tried to read A Discovery of Witches at least twice, but it just can’t hold my attention. Which is sad because I love a good witchy read. A Secret History of Witches sounds pretty good because I enjoy the history aspect usually as much as the magic and family dynamics. Great reviews, Danya 🙂

    1. Right? Witchy reads are the best! If you like history and family dynamics, then you should definitely try out A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES — it blends the two pretty well. As long as you’re prepared for the repetitiveness, then you’re golden. 😊

  4. I really enjoyed A Secret History of Witches, but I agree, it was very repetitive. I think it would have worked better with only three stories instead of five.

    1. Yeah, I agree. Either fewer stories or only two with the repetitive structure!

    • Karen

    • 4 years ago

    For some reason, witches aren’t my thing. I read Discovery of Witches and it was ok but I never continued with it. One was enough lol

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    1. Le gasp!!! But Karen, witches are so cool! Well…maybe not in A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. 😂

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    • 4 years ago

    I have thought about reading Secret History of Witches, a bit disappointed it didnt work better for you (also doesnt help my place it any higher on my priority list)

    1. From what I’ve seen around, it seems like most people were just so-so on it. I am interested to see what else Louisa Morgan comes up with, though!

  5. Seems like Oxford is a popular location for witches! I haven’t read many books where witches were front-and-center, but one of my favourite manga series, Berserk, is a dark-fantasy adventure which has a young witch as one of the main characters later on in the story. I really enjoy whenever a story features witches, because they almost always come packaged with super-cool lore about the world.

    1. Oh wow, I didn’t even notice that! You’re right, Oxford is apparently a witchy hot-spot. Yes, the lore and world building that often accompanies witches in stories is sooooo good! I’ve never seen Berserk, but I’m intrigued.

  6. I love that all these mini reviews had the theme of witches and that they all had different ratings. It definitely made this post super fun to read! I haven’t read any of these, but Slouch Witch sounds hilarious!!!!

    1. Hooray, glad to hear you like the mini review format Lara! I try my best to group “like” books together, haha. SLOUCH WITCH is suuuuuch a funny book!

  7. Mini reviews! I love mini reviews! I actually wanted A Secret History of Witches, but got declined xD whoops? Sounds like one I could have enjoyed though!

    And my mom raves about A Discovery of Witches. Somehow I’ve never tried it though xD maybe precisely cause she loves it? 😀 I am also not a big fan of romance.

    P.S. I’ve been literally meaning to follow your blog for a half a year but never got around to blog hopping on the PC, and your blog used to have that thing where you can’t follow on the phone xD so I’m finally following you on Bloglovin’! LOL

    1. I love them too! They’re a lot of fun to write, especially when I don’t have too much to say about a book. I thought I was going to get decline for A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES too, but I ended up getting approved like three months after the pub date. Super strange!

      LOL. My mum and I actually have very similar taste in books, but she loved A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES too. I love romance and I wasn’t into that book at all…Maybe it’s a mom thing? 😂

      Oh yay! I’m glad that I’ve finally got some of the kinks on my blog sorted out now. *goes to follow your blog*

      1. LOOOOL about “it’s a mom thing” :DDD maybe it is!

  8. I desperately wanted to like Discovery of Witchws but my goodnesss it bored me. Hopefully the series they’re making might redeem it some for me. Slouch Witch cracked me up!!! Ivy sounds hilarious and I could totally do with sass!!!

    1. Thank you!!! I feel like there are so many people out there who love A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES but it was just not for me at all. I’ll be checking out the TV show too though because I’m weak. 😂

      SLOUCH WITCH is such good fun! I’m eager to read the second book in the series soon.

  9. I have been wanting to read a Discovery of Witches for a while, although all of the bad reviews I’ve read have officially made me lose interest. My lack of interest in romance especially will keep me away from this book that struggles to get through three different genres.

    1. If you’re not into romance, passing on A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is definitely the right call. It’s more of a romance than anything else!

  10. A Discovery of Witches was one I had my eye on. I am quite sad you didn’t like it. –sigh– I have read many books which blended genres, but I guess it just wasn’t done well here.

    1. A lot of people love A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, so you might too! It seems to be very polarizing. The genre-blending didn’t work at all in my opinion…*sigh*

  11. Aww, I’m sad you didn’t like A Discovery of Witches but in retrospect I realize it was a bit bizarre. lol

    1. Sorry Bonnie! 😅 There were some aspects that I liked a lot (OXFORD!) but overall the bizarreness got to me, haha.

  12. I read A Discovery of Witches a loong time ago, and I was so surprised it was so highly praised, because I found it boring and kind of all over the place. And, my god, the characters were incredibly plain, as far as I can remember. To this day, I am utterly confused by how much people love it. Great reviews!

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

    1. THANK YOU! Honestly, I do not get the love for that book. It really was all over the place, and Matthew and Diana were felt like cardboard cutouts. I’m curious to see what changes and what stays the same with the TV adaptation… 🤔

  13. A Discovery of Witches is one I really loved when I read it forever ago but each time I go and try and reread because I’ve forgotten everything that happened (like everything) I just can’t get through the books. Maybe my tastes have changed, maybe the books are too damn long and I’ll never finish the series, who knows? But it still sucks it didn’t work out for you. I know I liked all the history stuff in the books (there is time travel so that was kind of cool… but I can’t remember why or how there was time travel). I think I just liked how, much like Outlander, it was long and ridiculous but also a little fun.

    A Secret History of Witches sounds pretty cool, though. Even if the story seems to follow the same set path for each woman, I think it would be an interesting read all the same. Even if it won’t be as much of a fantasy read as I might like.

    And Slouch Witch! That sounds like my kind of fun easy read. I am totally checking that out. It may not be utterly original but with a solid magic system and an MC with a talking cat? I am all over that.

    1. I feel that exact same way about so many books from back in the day! Sometimes I think about books that I gave five stars like five years ago and I cringe to think how I’d feel about them now. Maybe we’ll enjoy the TV adaptation more? Despite my reservations about the book I’m still intrigued. OMG Outlander is another one! I wanted to love the book but I just…didn’t. I do really like the TV show though. 😂

      When you’re feeling a historical reading mood or looking for a family saga, A SECRET HISTORY OF WITCHES is solid pick. Louisa Morgan’s writing really is so beautiful — I’m hoping she’s got something else coming down the pipeline soon.

      SLOUCH WITCH is hilarious, I swear. It’s very fun and silly and features a lazy-girl heroine who have a foul-speaking cat. Honestly, what more do you need from a fun read???

  14. OMGGGGGGG. I feel like Deborah Harkness is one of those really popular authors whose books I’ve been meaning to try. I mean, I see her books in places like Sam’s Club! That’s pretty cool. It sucks that you didn’t enjoy it. I don’t think I will read it – it sounds like it is all over the place. :O I’m glad you enjoyed the other two books here though! (Well, the second one more so than the first.) 😀

    Have a wonderful weekend, Danya. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. Right? Deborah Harkness is EVERYWHERE, especially now that the series is being made into a TV show. Unfortunately A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES was just not for me…there was way too much going on.

      Thanks Alyssa, have a great week! 😊

  15. I think Discovery of Witches was on my list but has since been crossed off! I don’t think I could follow.

    • Bookworm Brandee

    • 4 years ago

    I haven’t read any of these, Danya, but A Discovery of Witches is on my shelf so I’m disappointed to see you didn’t enjoy it. But you have valid points so I think I’ll come back to chat about it once I’ve read it. 🙂 Slouch Witch certainly sounds like fun. I like sassy and silly sometimes so I’ll have to add that one to my tbr. I’m also going to add A Secret History of Witches because it sounds like something I’d really enjoy. I like historicals revolving around families and I like the themes incorporated as well. 🙂

    Lovely reviews, Danya! I love the format – combining a common theme. 🙂

    • Lynn Williams

    • 4 years ago

    I fancied the first book but will leave that one after reading your review. A Discovery of Witches – I read it, and it was okay but I had issues, I then went on to read book 2 and that was quite enough. Matthew and Diana were just too annoying.
    Lynn 😀

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