Review: A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness

Review: A Discovery of Witches – Deborah HarknessA Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy #1
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Publication Date: February 8, 2011
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 579
Source: Library

My rating: One StarOne StarOne Star

A richly 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's the only creature who can break its spell.

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Oh, I had such high hopes for this.  Honestly, I really did enjoy reading it.  But looking back on it… it’s all kind of meh.  I loved the first few chapters of Diana pottering around and researching alchemical texts.  Then Matthew showed up and it went pretty much downhill from there.  I was really enjoying the whole “repressed witch” bit until it turns out, *GASP*, Diana is apparently the MOST MAGICAL WITCH ever!  Matthew turns into a nutter, and despite endlessly declaring their “TWWWWUEEE WUUUUUV” for each other, Matthew apparently doesn’t respect her enough to, I dunno, tell her the truth even about simple things like “telling you I love you means we’re vampire-married,” let alone causing a possible war by associating with each other.  Matthew is, quite possibly, the lamest vampire ever.  He does yoga.  He enjoys wine.  He eats nuts and extremely rare meat.  He is, apparently, very dangerous, but we only really get to hear about that from him as a response to why Diana shouldn’t be with him.

Oh, and the sex.  For something billed as a romance novel, it’s surprisingly unsexy.  Matthew basically refuses to have sex with Diana because they haven’t known each other long enough… except apparently they’ve known each other long enough to get married.  It’s part and parcel of a weird almost-infantilizing of Diana, which, yeah, as a thousand-year-old vampire I can see how anyone younger than a couple centuries could seem quite young, but he keeps saying HE LOVES HER as a women.

Also, major trigger warning.  Matthew tells Diana not to go outside, which she promptly ignores, so she’s kidnapped and freaking tortured, after which the bad guy dumps her in a hole until she can come back and torture her some more.  So, she’s stuck in a hole, seriously injured, and then has a conversation with her dead parents about how to save herself (which, of course, is couched in a fairy tale because apparently no one can tell Diana anything in a straight-forward fashion).  That is so all sorts of wrong that I don’t even know where to start.

However, the thought of a room of witches, vampires, and demons doing yoga makes me snort uncontrollably, so I’ll give it an extra star for that.

3 out of 5 vampire yoga stars.


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