A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. (goodreads.com)
Well, hey. It’s a pretty amazing thing that I actually read all 579 pages of this book because there were many, many moment when I questioned whether or not to go forward. Many.
I did not like this book. I thought I might like it, but it was a slow, painful discovery of dislike as I turned the pages.
What didn’t I like? Well, the first problem was how bloody slow the story was to start. This book seemed unnecessarily long. There was so much contained within the first 450 pages that just did not need to be in the book. That whole chapter just on GOING TO YOGA? I don’t care if it was freaking supernatural yoga, it was a chapter on GOING TO YOGA. The chapter included being picked up at the apartment, taking things out of the trunk, walking up to the class and then a description of the class.
The worst part is that I didn’t really see the whole “Hey, this book is actually Twilight on steroids” coming until it was too late and I was stuck. I had invested 400 pages and hours of my life to the story, just hoping that it would pick up and the sort of mystery of what was going on would get a little bit more exciting. I couldn’t stop with less than 200 pages left to go. I couldn’t.
Maybe it wasn’t going to be so bad. I could just skip pages upon pages of description of how things smelled (especially wine). Seriously. I could literally flip a couple of pages and get back to actual plot happenings and not miss anything critical. Maybe I won’t know what vampires like to smell and taste and what they can eat (hint: they are on the paleo diet. All raw meat and veggies and nuts. Of course they are. I was surprised they weren’t vegan.)
I could ignore (and roll my eyes, and make fun of) the awkward, creepy relationship that Diana has with Mr. Dreamy. Vampire. (Diana: Let’s sleep together! You’re so hot and I am so attracted to you! Matthew: No! We have so much time ahead of us! You warmbloods always rush into things! Let us just canoodle and touch each other inappropriately because that is SO MUCH MORE MEANINGFUL than making love! Diana: Um, ok. But, I don’t really have as much time on earth as you do. I’m not 1000 plus years old, and I’m a witch. Matthew: Nonsense! Now get on with the oral pleasure!)
What I couldn’t ignore? That all of a sudden Diana was ALL of the MOST POWERFUL and AMAZETASTIC EVERYTHING PARANORMAL EVER! OMG! This all just happened in the last bit of the book and Diana kept discovering she was ALL POWERFUL and she has ALL OF THE MAGIC and yet she was still all, “But I don’t use the magic! I’m not magical! I don’t want to me magical! Wait, Mr. Dreamy Vampire, don’t leave me, I’ll cry all of the tears and then almost drown in some form of ALL POWERFUL water magic that no one else can do! And wait! Can’t we have sex yet? No? Oh, gosh, ok.”
And then..then… THEN! she found out SHE COULD TRAVEL THROUGH TIME!
Of course she can.
The time travel thing was almost my breaking point. It was so close but I was about 100 pages away from the end and I can’t just stop a book when I’m so close to finishing it. I couldn’t. So the last 150 pages or so, I read parts out loud to my husband who helped me get through it.
“Oh, now she can control fire.”
“Of course she can, dear.”
“Oh, wait, now all of the outcast other paranormals are coming to stay with her because she can save them.”
“Of course she can, dear.”
“Oh, and Squee’s* vampire mother and vampire house keeper…”
“Yep. I guess she had nothing else better to do with her eternity. Well, the vampire mother hates ALL witches because they killed her husband but she ADORES Diana. Adores her and tells her son to treat her right. Everyone seems to love Diana! She’s so AWESOME and she DOESN’T EVEN KNOW IT!”
“Of course she is, dear. I’m still confused about the vampire housekeeper…”
“Oh my god. Now she can WALK THROUGH TIME!”
“You need to stop reading this. Now.”
And the ending.. I just couldn’t. I knew it was coming as soon as the whole time walker thing was mentioned. I could feel it in my bones. I was pretty sure that I had no interest in the sequel to this book and by that last chapter I was more than 100% certain. Alas, this was not the book for me and I can’t believe I read all of it. I should have stopped early on but I really thought it would get better once all of the random descriptions went away and the PLOT actually started. I should have paid better attention to the Twilight warning signs and just backed away from this book.
But I didn’t.
The one good thing about the book? I LOVED Diana’s family home. The HOUSE. I loved the house. What does it say about a book when your favourite character is a HOUSE? For real. It had this awesome personality and magical quality to it that reminded me of a Sarah Addison Allen book. In fact, I want SAA to write a book about a house with a personality. One that creates rooms when people are coming over and hides things that don’t need to be on people’s’ minds until they need it and it appears. I loved the entire idea of this house and I loved the house itself as a character.
I read 579 pages and I only loved a house that showed up in the last 100. Golly.
And I will disclose that I received this book as a gift from a publisher for filling out a survey. I got to choose a book and I chose this one because I thought I would like it and it sounded so interesting. I really wish I had liked more than the house. Bummer.
*Squee is what my husband and I call the main character in Twilight because that’s the sound females seem to make when they see or talk about him. WaggleSquee is what we call the werewolf because he has a waggly tail like our Jinx Puppy.