A Discovery of Witches | Deborah Harkness (Review)

Hardcover, 579 pages
Published February 2011 by Viking Penguin
ISBN0670022411 (ISBN13: 9780670022410)
Series All Souls Trilogy #1

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.

I need to preface this by saying it took me almost a year to read this book. I picked it up in October and just kept putting it down. I feel like that says a lot about this book that I was able to put it down for months at a time. I put it down in January the last time and didn’t pick it up again until the end of July. If I’m honest I just thought it would be one of those books I didn’t finish but because I didn’t actually hate it or anything I decided to give it another go. This time it took me about two weeks to finish the second half, which was still a long time for me. I did it though.

For the most part the book was pretty bland I guess you could call it. It was good but at the same time it was just so dull. It wasn’t intense enough to keep me sucked in for long but there was something there that kept me from ever abandoning it completely. It’s your typical supernatural romance but in this case instead of just a regular girl meeting a vampire this one is a witch. That part of it did intrigue me because it did add an interesting dynamic in that she isn’t just a complete shrinking violet, even though that’s how she was treated.

The dynamic between Diana and Matthew is so predictable and everything you would expect out of a book like this nature. Matthew is the perfect male with the looks and the wealth and he is completely over-bearing and protective. Nothing about his character is shocking or new and it’s pretty yawn if you ask me.

Under all the bits that drag on there’s some good about this book that I did like and that kept me engaged enough to decide to finish it. I enjoyed the mythology in the book and the fact that it’s not just focused on one “creature” if you will. There’s a lot of really interesting bits about history tied into the book that I enjoyed and there’s also a pretty heavy science side to the novel. I think that’s where this novel loses a lot of people is that while Harkness tries to balance it all as best she can the people who are just in it for a supernatural romance will resent having to wade through all the science and history bits and vise versa. That’s not to say everyone will have that problem but I think that’s a big reason that a lot of people found themselves hating this book.

I think if the book had been trimmed down a LOT then it would have been a lot easier to get through. Harkness is obviously incredibly smart and has a ton of different interests and she literally put every single one of those in this one novel. It was just a bit much. I didn’t hate the book enough to say don’t read it but I know it’s not a book for everyone. Some people will absolutely love it and some will hate it with everything inside them. There was enough at the ending of the book to peak my interest in the series so I picked up the second book in the trilogy hoping it will be a bit of a quicker read than the first.



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