A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
by Viking Penguin
inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and
the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.
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.
Debut novelist Deborah
Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts
history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who
meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually
warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates
age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the
novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.
This book had a LOT of problems. Really kind of troubling problems. I liked it anyway. Sit down, I'll tell you why.
I'll start with what I loved with this book: the settings were excellent. I love coming to know a place through a book. I've never been to Oxford but I think I caught a sliver of it through the narrative. I loved the academic parts of it, and I loved that I learned things about history from it. I always enjoy picking up tidbits of practical knowledge from fiction. The premise of the book was interesting. And here is where we run into my issues.
This book is disturbingly like Twilight. Don't get me wrong, I loved Twilight, despite my better judgment and its many flaws, but this book is supposed to be a book about a witch and her personal struggle against fate, or the underground political struggles between the supernatural races. This would have worked out in a really interesting way if not for one thing: homegirl falls in love with a vampire.
There is something about [male] vampires in urban fantasy acquiring the power to utterly ruin any story the minute the heroine falls for them. It doesn't happen every time, see Sunshine or Rachel Morgan, but it seems to tap into this dark well of perverse desire to be absorbed entirely into someone else's life in certain authors of certain books. The relationship turns into this black hole that seems to swallow everything else. Granted, relationships often do, but you can't realistically let your life be subsumed into that of a really old dead guy when you are just beginning your own journey of self discovery without your readers thinking you've lost your damn mind. Which is pretty much what happens here.
Luckily this guy is ptherwise pretty interesting and you get to go to France and find out a buncha stuff. But the original plotlines suffer for this.
Don't even get me STARTED ranting about the whole alpha male/pack business. We get it, vampires are animalistic. Let's just go ahead and disregard all feminist social progress. Because he just can't help himself. EYE ROLL
I really enjoy reading books about witches. Unfortunately, this book was almost entirely hijacked by vampires from the beginning. I really would have liked to learn more about Diana's parents and her Bishop lineage. I would DEFINITELY liked to learn more about daemons. Not the secrety things, just more about what they are like and what differentiates them from...well, mentally gifted and disturbed humans. Because aside from being savants, I can't pinpoint a single thing.
All in all, a good/ruthless editor with a scalpel and an aversion to vampire hijacking would have done this book a world of good. It was about a hundred, maybe two hundred pages longer than I expected it to be (ebook), and about the same length stretched out/overwritten. Despite all of my issues and opinions to the contrary, I did really enjoy this book and can't wait to read the next one.
I know. I'm hopeless.
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Labels: 4 stars, Deborah Harkness, Review, vampires, witches