Joy's Reviews > A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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's review
Aug 01, 11

bookshelves: 21c, american, fantasy, romance
Read in August, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Diana Bishop is a historian of science and also, incidentally, the daughter of two of the most powerful witches of their generation. Matthew Clairmont is a leading geneticist and also, incidentally, a vampire. Their chance encounter at the Bodleian Library turns out to be much more than it first seems when a mysterious manuscript has all the magical beings of England descending upon Oxford.

This is sort of a hot mess of a book: there's just way too much going on for any of it be done particularly well. There are witches, daemons, vampires; academia and manuscripts; science and history; time travel; elemental magic; English country houses and French chateaus. Lots of individual points of interest, but Harkness doesn't juggle the pieces well. As a result, this reads a lot like an early draft: there's a lot of promise, but there are also pacing issues and a lack of focus. It feels scattered, and reading it is sort of a slog at times.

I think the biggest weak point is the central romance between Diana and Matthew--we're told about how it develops, but I as the reader never feel it. It especially suffers because Matthew turns out to be every alpha male vampire cliche; I think I started rolling my eyes when he started using French endearments for Diana.

All that said, I can see how this novel became a hit, and I fully expect the sequel to be one too. The mishmash of genres and utter lack of subtlety reminds me a lot of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series; I imagine they share a lot of the same audience.
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