Katinki's Reviews > A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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Feb 19, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: witches-magicians-et-al, vampire-books

Overall, I'd say... this was a pretty decent read. There were segments I really enjoyed. And then there were others that I found to be tedious and at times annoying.

Interesting premise in general, but in execution, I found it to be a little shallow and in places overly predictable. The author hasn't fully convinced me as to WHY the Ashmole 782 (book) is really so important. I know it is... only because I've been told. But based on the information given, it's just not as compelling as the actions in the story warrant.

Too, I found there to be just too many coincidences going on in this story... both in favor and not for the protag. Scenes / conflicts were rectified too quickly / too easily. Examples: 1) the kidnap scene where A. Matthew knew where to look and B. Diana's visions / figuring out how to fly. 2) Diana figuring out witchfire at the last minute. 3) Or seeing the goddess just at the right time. 4) Sophie and Nathanial showing up.

Yes, I realize that the explanation for at least Diana's magic is that her gifts manifest when she "needs" them... that's a little too convenient for me. Giving the author the benefit of the doubt, some of this could simply be due to the "most of the time" first person narration and its inherent limitations.

Also, in places, the story rambled - i.e. some scenes really didn't seem to add value or import to the overall plot line. Ex: Yoga sessions.

Diana: Okay, she's all right. I like that she's smart and accomplished. I like that she's got this drive to make her way on her own - that speaks well to her character. I do not like how easily she gives in / steps aside for Matthew. I'd like to see more backbone in her - it shows up sometimes, but not as often as I'd like.

Furthermore, I was annoyed at her seemingly endless array of talents. She's "too" powerful IMO, even though she's not versed / trained. That's just another bit of coincidence... ehhhh. She needs some weaknesses.

Matthew: Love his history. He's richly drawn, complex, and lovely. I rather like him. He's definitely got a few overbearing tendencies, but in some ways, it's understandable considering his history and age. I can "buy" his somewhat controlling traits because that's historically accurate. Add in that protectiveness and possessiveness is part of this world's "vamp" it makes sense.

There's a host of other characters that I thought were well done: Marcus, Hamish, Emily, Ysabeau (I think she's my favorite secondary)

The villains: Now these I had some serious issues with. They ALL just seemed to come from nowhere and none stayed in the story for any length of time. It was like they were being thrown at Diana and Matthew like darts. I thought ALL of them were just poorly characterized and poorly constructed. This includes: Sata, Juliette, Knox, Domenico, Gillian, etc. The villains were one of my biggest beefs with this novel. I'm not really convinced as to any of their motivations.

Narration / Storytelling / Writing:
The writing is okay/good. It was fairly well researched in terms of history. I enjoyed those tidbits quite a bit. I "believed" those portions of the story.

The swapping narration (the majority of the book is in 1st person, single POV but it changes periodically to 3rd person) is jarring and very annoying to me. It's a little like cheating IMO, because the author is working around the 1st person single limitations in terms of telling the reader information. I prefer narration to remain constant in stories.

Some segments of the story are heavy info dumps that are somewhat tedious. The first couple of chapters were too much background at once. It took away from the present story. I'd have liked to have seen that info given out a little more slowly and over time.

The romance between Matthew and Diana was... okay. It annoyed me senseless that two characters in their mid thirties didn't consumate their marriage. That's completely unrealistic. I'm not wanting erotica by any means. I just found that to be absurd, especially since they had no idea that there was any possibility of a child between them at the time.

The ILYs were... ehhhhh. At least at the time in which they were spoken, I was surprised at how "fast" these two progressed. At that point, it wasn't obvious to me that they "loved" each other... not really. I don't know. There wasn't enough WHAM/BAM/Lightning bolts for me to believe that they could love each other so quickly. I found Diana to be too accepting / too willing to overlook some things about Matthew. I didn't like that she was so willing to give up everything and everyone for him.

As the story moved forward, however, it was clear that these two were clearly in love. They were rather sweet.

The vampire mythos was, again, too convenient. These vamps got a better deal than even Meyer's vamps in Twilight. They still eat and drink human food (which makes no sense as to why they'd need blood then). They sleep every now and then. They're still fast and strong. Sun is okay. They can hang out around blood without going bonkers. Etc.

Heh. Interesting. I'll reserve judgment. At this point, the author hasn't made a compelling case that it's all plausible in her world (not ours obviously, but the one she created). Genetic markers for witch talents? Vamps and witches having the same chromosomes (thus they possible could mate)? Ehhh. Need to see more on this.

I don't like this at all. Then, I should say I rarely like time travel in stories because logically it never, ever makes sense. If one goes back in time, it would change everything and in ways that would be highly unpredictable because too many people would be affected. There is no explanation that would alter that truth. Also, if one travels back, it is impossible to explain how there would not be two versions of "you" at that time. Ugh. Makes no sense and just takes me out of the story. No author has ever fully managed to convince me of time travel as a plot element. Ever.

Twilight Similarities:
Too many and too obvious. Blue shirt. Diana riding on Matthew's back at when? Twilight, lol. Her blood literally singing. Matthew breaking into her place. Matthew holding Diana and watching her sleep. Not having sex (that's only a half a joke). Matthew being super protective and unwilling to change her to a vamp. Lastly, one word: demonspawn. If they have a daughter and name her "Rebeccabeau" I'll throw up.

So, I've listed a lot of things I wasn't keen on. I'm an engineer... my job is to find faults and weaknesses. What I liked? It was entertaining. I liked the sweet nature of the Matthew/Diana relationship and the fact that neither one of them fought it "too hard". I like some of the metaphors of prejudice and segregation (that the four "species" shouldn't intermingle) - that makes the story a little more complex. I like some of the secondaries. I like the incorporation of history and historical figures (that's really well done, I might add). I think some of Diana's powers are bad ass.

All in all, it's an entertaining read. Not a favorite, but it's worth me continuing the series.
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Reading Progress

February 19, 2011 – Shelved
April 9, 2011 – Started Reading
April 9, 2011 –
page 31
5.35% "So far, not bad. Interesting start. A LOT of "telling" re: Diana's past and that's a little tedious. Wish that had been broken up / told over time rather than in a big info dump. The shift from 1st person narration to 3rd limited in ch3 was jarring."
April 10, 2011 –
page 277
April 10, 2011 – Finished Reading
February 14, 2012 – Shelved as: witches-magicians-et-al
June 16, 2012 – Shelved as: vampire-books

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Punk Farie i'm a little over a year late reading this review, but considering i just read the book...

anyhoo, i agree 100% with your review and have the some issues with the story.

also, the whole "she's a chimera! she absorbed her twin!" thing had me rolling my eyes. i realize it's medically possible (though rare) but she's a super witch/genius/chimera in love with a vampire? even in fantasy that feels like pushing it. (if that makes any sense.)

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