Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I always read the negative reviews of a book before i pick it up, and for this book they all said the same thing: the story drags and the love story is cheesy. But people said the same things about The Night Circus and i adored that book, so i went ahead and dove into A Discovery of Witches anyway, since its overall rating was so high on Goodreads. Unfortunately, those negative reviews were spot-on.

I like a good long, dense book with plenty of somewhat superfluous details and rich character development. But this book was just plain boring. There were two very brief, rather lame action scenes in the entire book. The bad guys are simply pathetic. They’re so disorganized and timid and dumb, it just doesn’t make any sense. All that happens in the—what, 500?—long pages of this book is brewing, in more than one sense of the word. They sit around and brew and drink tea endlessly, teasing out each other’s “secrets” and telling each other what to do and trying to figure out what the enemy is up to and staring at ancient books and pawing at each other and anticipating a war, and starting all over again doing exactly the same things the very next day, day after day after day for a month. They change locations a couple times, but it’s not enough to make the story interesting.

The story revolves around the couple of Diana and Matthew, a witch and a vampire, respectively. In the course of four weeks, this pair goes from strangers to enemies to quasi-friends to dating to married to talking about children to risking the fate of the planet for their relationship. And for the first half of that, i didn’t buy their chemistry at all. (I had to imagine them as Daenerys and Drogo in order to sell it to myself. No, i don’t watch GoT, i’ve just seen a couple of episodes.) Oh, but they never have sex. They just do a huge amount of making out.

They’re a lot like Edward and Bella, unfortunately. Apparently vampires are just dogmatic assholes by nature and can therefore be forgiven for it endlessly, even by supposedly intelligent, independent-minded women. There was one moment when i really should have put the book down, when Matthew was physically restraining Diana against her wishes and telling her that if she fought him or ran from him, he basically wouldn’t be responsible for killing her. RED. FLAG. He got somewhat better after that, but they continued with their power struggle and their mind-numbing Q&A sessions for the entire book. I read Twilight once, and that was quite enough of that stuff for me.

There were other little things that bothered me maybe more than they needed to. I don’t like that when a vampire turns a human into a vampire, the new vampire is the old one’s “child.” So, what if a vamp turned a human because they were romantic partners? You’d be in a relationship with your own kid?! Gross. All the “his son” and “his father” crap was annoying, especially when Matthew’s “son” then became Diana’s “son” too, after they became married. (Even though she was not aware that they’d become married until after the fact but was still cool with it, which was all kinds of stupid in and of itself.)

And i must say that Deborah Harkness’s fashion sense is absolutely atrocious. There were so many turtlenecks, yoga pants, and monochromatic outfits that it kind of made me want to puke.

I stuck with it because i was waiting for The Magician King and wanted to read something magical and fun, dammit. But i hardly even got that. The witches’ temperamental house was the one really cool part of this book—and by far the best character. I enjoyed the clever alchemical mystery stuff, and i can sort of appreciate the great amount of historical knowledge that went into this book, but unfortunately you have to be a historian to keep up with all of the references that the story is heavily peppered with. Most of the cool stuff went way over my head, and the book was just too long for me to be able to spend time looking things up. Diana’s powers are intriguing and they’re going to be awesome by the end of the series, i’m sure, but they’re painfully slow to develop. I can appreciate that to some extent—I mean, was Luke Skywalker any different?—but i’m not going to slog through all this other filler to get to the fun stuff in this series. It’s just not worth it; i’m cutting my losses now.

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