Review – A Discovery of Witches
  • Posted:
  • September 20, 2012
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I figured you would all be amused by the silly piece of mucketty-muck that Greg wrote for me as a response to my whinging about this book. I was amused by it too, but here’s my thoughts on this book. Because I actually read the accursed thing. And he didn’t.

The book starts out with a mysterious text, and aging library at Oxford, and a witch – Diana Bishop, Science Historian extraordinaire. When the appearance of Ashmole 782, an ancient alchemical text, the entire supernatural community is thrown into an uproar. Now every baddie that goes bump in the night is stalking Diana, including the dashing Biochem professor Matthew Clairmont. Diana befriends Matthew and their friendship quickly blossoms into something more despite the inherent danger between the two – he’s a Vampire and she’s a Witch, mortal enemies from centuries past. Can the two circumvent outside dangers to allow their relationship to grow?

This is one of the bigger books we have had in the store in the last few years. Many of the reviews online are mixed… and mine will be no different from that trend. Mixed is a pretty pointed word to describe my feelings about this book. I had a lot of issues with it.

To start, it’s a character driven novel. Character driven novels are fraught with peril for one reason… the reader has to bond with the characters. Diana worked for me for the first half of the book, in the latter chunk she fell apart. Why the collapse? It’s simple – the first half of the book illustrates Diana as a self-possessed, curious,  intelligent and resourceful woman… and in the end Diana turns into Bella Swan, weak and dependent on her Vampire lover for everything. It’s no surprise that I am a bit over this trend in supernatural fiction. However, for a book with this much buzz and this caliber of cred to it I would have thought that there was something more original to it than this – passive woman syndrome.

Matthew does nothing to break the mold either. He’s a 1500 year old relic who has seen everything that history has to offer during that span and he still offers nothing exciting to the mix. Matthew is such an archetype for the Vampire romantic lead it’s not even funny – dark and handsome and eager to please. The most interesting thing that he offers is yoga classes and wry commentary on various historical events and people. I never connected with him as the love interest, and I didn’t get the passion between them. Diana was far less interesting coupled with him than without.

This brings us to the plot of the book – what little there is. I can sum it up in about three statements – Girl finds book, boy finds girl, book ruins life. What fills up the rest of the 580 pages of novel are nebulous character details and historic asides about all things nifty. Seeing what Harkness would throw into the mix was the only thing that kept my attention. Her historic details are the best part of the book. However, Deborah Harkness is pedantic. And slow. And dense. Plus she uses both first AND third person narrative to tell her story (Diana’s is in first but whenever Diana can’t narrate it switches to third). These things compiled are death to the reader’s interest. It makes the book twice as long as it needs to be unnecessarily, and turns it into a frustrating read. This book is, in essence, a 600 page romance novel with a dash of everything else for flavour. And the romance is not very compelling. You could read Twilight and get more out of it. I read Twilight and got more out of it.

Though I have a faint curiosity about the sequel, Shadow of Night, I don’t think I will be reading it any time soon. And I think if I don’t pick it up now I never will, so that says something. I don’t care about going on as much as I should, and that spells death for a sequel read. But I read the first one, and I know what it is, and now I can move on.

3 out of 5 stars.

– BP


Martina Koleva

2012-09-20 19:59:52 Reply

I actually really liked A Discovery of Witches. I also read Shadow of Night and now I can’t wait for book three. Too bad you didn’t like it enough to continue reading the trilogy.. 🙂