Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness

Proposed alternate title: Fifty Shades of Sweaters

a discovery of witches cover

Diana is a sexually repressed witch and historian who's doing a research sabbatical at Oxford. One day she recalls a rare alchemical manuscript from special collections at the Bodleian, and the next she's being hounded by vampires, daemons, and other witches. Why are they all so interested in a forgotten manuscript? Diana's totally clueless. The only person she trusts to help her is Matthew--a vampire, super scientist, and fine wine connoisseur who is also after the manuscript.

I'm a little torn about A Discovery of Witches. First of all, the writing style drove me crazy. It kind of reminded me of Fifty Shades of Grey (review here). Before you freak out, A Discovery of Witches is NOT similar to Fifty Shades of Grey in any way except: 1. it's obviously "inspired by" Twilight; and 2. the writing sometimes feels like the author is just vomiting up words. The book's almost 600 pages long and it isn't because the plot's complicated.

Now, you might not know this about me, but I favor a less-is-more approach to just about anything, and that includes writing. I refuse to read prologues, I hate flashbacks, and I've been known to DNF books for the sole reason that the unnecessary clothing descriptions were driving me crazy. And there are a hella lot of unnecessary clothing descriptions in this book (how many gray sweaters do these people own?), not to mention nonsensical details of the most random crap imaginable. For example, whenever Diana serves drinks, she takes care to point out that she did so "without spilling a drop." Does she often spill a drop while carrying drinks? If no, why mention it? "I walked across the room without tripping over any furniture, managed not to run into the wall, and then sat down on my ass! And then, when I drove to work, I didn't run over a single person. Hooray!"

Go superstar!

Despite the fact that the writing style made me want to bang my head against a wall, however... I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches. For one, I have an unreasoning love of books about books. This is why Chamber of Secrets is my favorite Harry Potter novel. And A Discovery of Witches revolves around a book; plus a good portion of it takes place in one of the most kick-ass libraries there is, so I definitely enjoyed that. You really feel like you're in Oxford while you're reading it, which is fabulous.

Two, I am a total sucker for brooding vampires and knights in shining armor, and Matthew is both. Matthew basically makes this book, let's get that clear right now. Yes, he is a clone of Edward Cullen, right down to watching the heroine sleep and refusing to get on with the sexy times because he's hopelessly old-fashioned; but I happen to like Edward Cullen. It's totally easy to fall in love with Matthew, and there is a lot of believable chemistry and romantic tension between him and Diana. Actually, the book overall is very romantic, in the literary sense, right down to damsel in distress and the hero rescuing her.

Furthermore, A Discovery of Witches tells an awesome story. In my experience academic mysteries (which this isn't exactly, but I started it under that assumption) can be really boring. I wasn't bored a single moment while reading this book. It has EVERYTHING. Seriously. Not just witches, daemons, vampires, and magic, but evolution and DNA, secret messages, cabal organizations, the Knights Templar, yoga, a wicked-awesome house that is my favorite thing evar, vampire babies, goddesses, dungeons, ghosts, mothafucking time travel, and Year of the Comet wine.

Honestly, A Discovery of Witches is the most entertaining, escapist, and romantic story I've read in a LONG time, and because of that I'm willing to forgive and forget the writing style (after I finish this review, of course). I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes to have fun reading a book.


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