Stephanie's Reviews > A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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's review
Oct 22, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: 2011, borrowed-from-library, hardback
Read in October, 2011

'A Discovery of Witches' is -at first- an incredibly atmospheric novel, where each page is full of lavish detail that was obviously painstakingly researched. It's a big book, which I absolutely love, usually. But it took me a whole week to finish it, compared to other books. This is due somewhat to the large amount of detail.

The research of science and alchemy is immense, and gives the book a richness that for me was hard not to like, even if at times it made for slower reading. But then I was in no rush! I liked this part of the novel.

I especially loved the descriptions of the old university libraries, it was sumptuous and I could imagine I was actually there. I was able to smell the musty leather and hear the soft rustle of pages that so often accompanies old libraries and ancient books. The country side scenes were just as descriptive, and you actually felt you were there.

Unfortunately, there were witches and vampires. (Gag, puke!) I don't read that genre, and I no longer read paranormal romances either. But this time, I sometimes, kinda enjoyed having different otherworldly creatures throughout the book, and although Diana is a witch she's also very human with regards to her emotions. (When she's not being a big flake.) Diane is fiercely independent which I loved and I admired her for the passion she had for her work. (Until she needs saved, again.)

Most the characters are well-rounded, (mostly) rather believable, and mostly true to their personalities. However, I did find that with so many characters, I couldn't connect as much as I would have liked with the two main characters. The other vampires were just... back ground people, not completely developed or even explained. The last couple, newer demons were annoyingly thrown in in the end. The Aunt's house was really amazing, almost an entire other character, but left along the sidelines while the main characters moved on. But it was not explained, and I sincerely thought that the aunts needed more time, words, and emotions other than what little they showed.

The romance between Matthew and Diana is pretty intense, but then the entire book only spans just over a week, and a lot happens in such a short space of time. However, although they are in love there are still secrets between them and they have a lot to learn about each other.

The secret-keeping was absolutely annoying, and got in the way of the story line every time it was brought up. I don't know why no one can be honest anymore, not even other-worldly creatures, lol.

I liked Diana and Matthew but at times I found Diana frustrating that she wouldn't use her witchly powers due to the binding spells, and with Matthew for constantly wanting to protect her - it felt suffocating rather than romantic. Sometimes, he felt stalker-ish, stilted, and bordering on.... should I say it? A dick. Or rather, someone to whom women are frail, fragile creatures who must be saved. A LOT. (There, I said it.) Yes, sometimes Matthew was annoying, and sometimes he was down-right bastardly, but I kept soldiering on, hoping for more scenes in a library. AH, my favorite place! Did they go back? NO.

In times of danger, I know in another book in the series, they would just stand side by side and fight, equals in every way. I much prefer a woman who can protect herself and isn't afraid to use whatever she has at her disposal to defeat her enemies, most people do. So we know this will happen, some day... Diana does shine through near the end of the book but it's only a glimpse. 'A Discovery of Witches', I'm forced to say, is the first in a trilogy.

This novel is a (sometimes) delicious read, full of mystery and intrigue and (some) three-dimensional characters. The occasional rich descriptive prose leaves (some of) you excited for the next novel in this series. I don't know if I will bother to find out what the alchemist book holds for the future of Diana and Matthew and all the witches, vampires and demons of the world. If you like this kind of novel, then you should read it. If not, pass it up, please. You will liken it to something like a Twilight-for-adults.
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