Dimity's Reviews > A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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's review
Jan 27, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: fantasy-sci-fi, reading-women-2011, witchy-women, reviewed, series, read-women-fiction, 2011
Read from May 15 to 19, 2011

I had a lot of problems with my first foray into the world of vampire lit. I by no means believe that every novel I spend my time on has to be enlightening; the principal reason I read is for fun and leisure. However, I can’t help but see this as a thinly veiled Twilight ripoff for the older crowd and I was very uncomfortable with how the witch protagonist Diana (named for the goddess of the hunt) interacted with her vampire boyfriend, Matthew. I try not to be a complete jerk when writing reviews because I know that most books are born of the author’s blood, sweat and tears and I don’t need to love everything I read. However I have a hard time showing restraint in this review because I am in disbelief that this author didn’t know better. This book was offensive to me as a woman, quite frankly.

I am quite disturbed that someone who is so accomplished (holds a doctorate, teaches at a well-known school) as the author basically writes an ode to domestic violence masquerading as some great romance. The correct response to our dashing vampire hero telling Bella (err I mean DIANA) that he “will kill her before someone else hurts her” is to call a domestic violence shelter, not bemusedly dismiss it as another endearing sign of his brooding personality. Diana is like your friend that you love and has eight million things going for her but still dates losers with addictions because she suffers from crippling low self-esteem. Diana obviously acts as though she needs protection despite the author’s half-hearted attempts to portray her as independent. Diana submits completely to Matthew; I have always felt affinity for the goddess Diana and the thinly veiled analogy where Diana uses her powers to convince a deer to submit itself to death at Matthew’s hands gave me a case of the icks. I don’t have a fundamental problem with a character being with a possessive lover but I DO have a problem with a squicky relationship like this being portrayed as something to envy. I can see hints that Harkness has second thoughts about writing Diana as such a twit but she fails to demonstrate that her character is anything more than a damsel in distress. (And no, adding lines of dialogue that Diana is independent, brave, blah blah blah does not make it so if her every action negates these declarations.) Diana is, to be blunt, an idiot a lot of the time in how she passively accepts Matthew’s crap. (I say this as an idiot myself because I continued to read this book even when it became evident my orbits were getting bruised from all the violent eyerolling that accompanied said reading.) 300 pages in I decided to commit and read all 579 pages if for no other reason than to be able to write a review hating it completely with the street cred of actually finishing the book.

I did enjoy the descriptions of Oxford (I have very fond memories of a trip there) and as a history geek, I also loved the aspects of historic research that were discussed. This book did slightly redeem itself towards the end, but in no way absolved the flaws I saw. The abuse undercurrents are still there and still disturbing but about 400 pages in, the story picked up enough steam that all Matthew’s borderline abusive behavior didn’t become my principal response to this book. We get to learn more of the interesting world of witching and Diana starts to show some personality traits other than acquiescence. Because it ends with the promise of time travel (a particular fondness of mine), I may even pick up the sequel when it is released…but probably not. It is also unlikely that I will read other paranormal romances with vampires. I find it impossible to accept the male possessiveness leitmotif that seems obligatory to vampire stories.

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Reading Progress

05/17/2011 page 215

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