Brittany's Reviews > A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
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Dec 03, 2011

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bookshelves: fantasy
Read from December 03 to 06, 2011

This book felt like Harkness read the Twilight novels and thought, "You know, there are actually some good bones in here, buried in this sappy morass."

Bear with me here.

I'm not at all saying that's what she actually did, but the themes of the two (or at least Twilight's main them and one of the themes of this book) were strikingly similar. The main character falls in love with a dangerous vampire who spends a lot of his time explaining why she shouldn't love him. The heroine is being pursued for various reasons by supernatural creatures and has to be protected a lot. And neither Edward nor Matthew are actually all that scary. They're certainly no Constantine, and they're not even Spike or Angel.

However, there the similarities end. While Diana is no Buffy, she's also far beyond a Bella. Granted, she still got on my nerves on occasion. There was still a lot of fainting and sleeping and hot baths, and she did need rescuing a fair bit, but at least Harkness went to the trouble of explaining why Diana couldn't use her apparently-off-the-chart powers. (And that particular twist was creative, unexpected, intriguing, and well-done).

At bottom, this book was a fluffy, fun love story, with a lot of magic, politics, travel to exotic locations, and some stabs at science (more on this later) thrown in. It was an unapologetic adventure novel and love story. It did both those things well. There were some extremely creative ideas and twists that kept me intrigued. It was fun to read, it sucked me in, and I was sorry when it was over. I thought about it for several days after, wishing I could still pick it up, which is high praise. The world Harkness built is fun and interesting to live in, and she left me wanting more. The trappings of history she added to the story were irresistible. The twist of making vampire catnip for a historian is a lovely facet I'd never considered.

The reason it got three stars instead of four was mainly editing. There was much too much description of what everyone (especially our main character) was wearing, and too much Diana gazing into mirrors and despairing over her "uncontrollable" hair (which you know is actually quite fetching by the way she keeps blowing it out of her face) and the way the author (and Matthew) can't stop trying to describe what color it is. If some of this had been weeded out, the story would have been much tighter and much stronger. The dialog was good, and there were some great, witty lines. The prose got stronger further into the book, which makes me think the next book might be better. Especially if the editor gets in there a bit more.

And then we get to the science. I applaud Harkness for trying to work it in. I really do. But I wish she'd had a geneticist read over it, because her explanation of the disparate number of chromosomes witches carry doesn't hold water. (Unless it does and I'm missing something). If witches and humans have different numbers of chromosomes then, like horses and donkeys, they won't typically have fertile offspring. Her "genes for" this and that witchy ability was also somewhat sketchy, though Diana's chimera nature was intriguing and unexpected.

This was a fun, satisfying book. A perfect read for a cozy winter night when it gets dark too early and your brain doesn't want to work that hard.
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Quotes Brittany Liked

Deborah Harkness
“My ideas about vampires may be romantic, but your attitudes toward women need a major overhaul.”
Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches

Reading Progress

12/03/2011 page 72
03/31/2016 marked as: read
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