Book Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Overview: Diana is a high-powered intellectual with a secret: she’s a witch who hails from the Bishop/Proctor family, one whose magical powers are (were – her parents are dead) unmatched. However, Diana, devoting herself to rigorous intellectual study (in chemistry – what an interesting choice for a witch!) and aggressive physical activity, eschews her background. When she accidentally retrieves an ancient alchemical book from the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, daemons, witches, and vampires of all sorts begin meddling in Diana’s life leaving her no choice but to face her magical heritage. One of these nosy creatures is Matthew Clairmont, a wickedly handsome vampire who is equally attractive and repulsive to Diana. Spoiler alert: she falls for him, and their partnership leads her down a rabbit hole of magical creatures and ancient pacts to a confrontation with her own untamed power.

Novel Type: While it’s marketed as a Harry Potter for adults, it’s really more of a romance thriller.

My rating: 5/10.

Let me just get this out of the way: I don’t think I’m an intellectual snob. I conjure equal enthusiasm for Real Housewives of New York as I do for August: Osage County. Yes, my interests are certainly eclectic if not downright oxymoronic. Both Crime & Punishment and Harriet the Spy top my list of favorite reads, for example, and I enjoy grocery shopping simply for the blissful ten minutes I spend perusing the tabloids in the checkout line. But, this book just did not do it for me.

I got a kick out of Diana’s aunts, who provided some good comedic relief, and I was kinda sorta interested to learn where Diana and Matthew would end up. I mean, I didn’t NOT finish the book. So, what’s my beef? Diana basically becomes as uninteresting as Bella Swan  as soon as she falls for Matthew. Unlike Hermoine, for example, with whom she shares some nerdy traits, Diana doesn’t retain snark or independence and spends much of her time tasting wine with Matthew, describing how Matthew smells, and imagining what she must smell like to him. I almost threw the book across the room when I arrived at the passage in which Diana compares Matthew’s smell to that of “carnations – not the kind in the florist shops but the old-fashioned ones that grow in English cottage gardens” (146). Carnations are just wrong. Period. Okay? Fine, I’m a little snobbish. Mostly I found myself bewildered by Diana’s taste, with which I reluctantly had to concern myself since she was either nibbling at Matthew or drinking wine All. The. Time. For instance, she narrates, “We sipped at what Matthew called my ‘birthday wine,’ which smelled like lemon floor polish and smoke and tasted like chalk and butterscotch” (173). Huh?

Read if you: like the Twilight series or 50 Shades of Grey…in which case you should stop reading my blog*.




*I kid! I kid!



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