Title: A Discovery of Witches
Author: Deborah Harkness
On the Shelves: Fiction> Fantasy
“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.” (Goodreads 2014)
I need to thank the publishers at Headline for allowing me access to this book in exchange for a review via netgalley.
Where do I even begin with this book? I have so much to say about it, and not much of it is positive- which will give you an idea where this review is heading.
The basic story line of this book is that it follows a twenty something witch named Diana Bishop, who refuses to learn or even acknowledge her witchy heritage and powers. Instead she works as an academic for a univeristy in oxford. You will see constant references to the fact she is an American living in Oxford. A lot. She starts being followed by some tall, dark and creepy dude named Matthew who, it turns out, is a vampire and obviously falls in love with her quickly, and vice versa. The rest of the book is about them overcoming the centuries of witch/vampire hate whilst trying to track down some ancient text…or something- to be quite honest, the actual plot of substance takes a massive back seat once the two main characters start making love heart eyes at each other.
One of my issues with this book was the writing style. I feel like this book could easily have been half the size it ended up at. Harkness filled the book with detail, background and story with an amount that Victor Hugo would have been proud of. Which would be fine, is most of it were actually relevant to the story. Most of the descriptions are based around food. Lots of food. And Diana’s hair or clothes.
This book had a blurb stamped on the cover/inside claiming it was “the grown up twilight”. I considered this more of a warning than a recommendation. And it was correct. This book actually follows the main structure of twilight, if you take away the plot about the ancient text, which again isn’t hard since that plot disappears for most of the book.
My Next Point:
Despite Diana constantly being told she is a “STRONG FEMALE WOMAN” and a “FIGHTER” and including Diana telling herself this fact often, she spends a lot of the book being “protected” by Matthew, being picked up and carried around by everyone (including his mother and sister, what), being sedated by Matthew and his family (because you know, that isn’t anything date rapey) and constantly being grabbed by the arms and neck. She is told “I would rather kill you myself than let anyone harm you”- that somehow doesn’t come across as romantic to me, but rather quite threatening. This behaviour is borderline abusive (I say borderline because we are meant to accept this because he is a “vampire”…er no, personally, this behaviour is never okay and should not be encouraged. This normalises the behaviour of a violent and aggressive nature, and that is dangerous. Enough people stay in domestically abusive relationships because they don’t recognise the difference between “protective” and “possessive”. They misconstrue acts of abusive, as acts of love. It is seriously disturbing. I’m certainly not the type of reader who can read this sort of stuff passively, shrug my shoulders and say “oh well, it’s only a book”. Books contain messages and information. They can help to protect those who are vulnerable. I believe they are powerful, and telling an audience that this type of behaviour is “romantic”, is absolutely ridiculous.
On a lighter note, the pace of this novel was horrific. I started it in April, it took me 3 months to complete it because I just lost all interest around 15% into the book because with all that description and detail, it moved painfully slowly. It started out as a five star, then a four star…and then around 60% it dropped to a two star. I did not finish this book, but because I read 70% I feel like I can give it at least a decent review. I could not finish this book. It became too painful for me to read.