Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review - Deborah Hakness' A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Published by: Viking Adult
Publication Date: February 8th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 592 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy
Diana is a witch. Something she has always denied herself. Magic killed her parents and magic would have no place in her life. She has created a great academic career for herself and is researching alchemy in Oxford for the semester. Then one day she calls a book from the stacks, Ashmole 782. This book isn't what it seems, it reeks of magic. As soon as she's done, Diana sends it back to the stacks and far away from her. Yet this book will change her life. Soon she learns that this book had been considered lost for hundreds of years and every kind of supernatural and preternatural want it, believing it to be their holy book. Vampires, Daemons and even her own kind are willing to do anything to get it. Enter Matthew Clairmont. Matthew is tall, dark and brooding, everything you'd expect a vampire to be. He takes a keen interest in Diana, not just because of the book, but because something draws her to him.

Soon the two of them are in an inseparable web. Falling for each other, but denying that it is happening. Oxford becomes too dangerous for Diana and Matthew spirits her away to his family estate in France, where Diana will have to face Matthew's mother and her disapproval. She has to be conciliatory to Matthew's wishes that she curtail her active and independent lifestyle in the face of danger. Soon though, it's not just Ashmole 782 which is the true danger, but her feelings for Matthew. Witches and Vampires are not to consort. The Congregation is an organization that rules over the otherworldly. Three members from each group lay down the law. Matthew and Diana are breaking their laws. Soon Diana is kidnapped and rescued and on the run, yet again. An ancient order of knights is called into action and a shadow council is unwittingly formed at Diana's family's home in upstate New York. If there's one thing they need, it's more time. Time to find out the true reason that Diana and Matthew prove such a danger, and time for Diana to embrace her heritage.

This book started out so good. Diana was living the dream. Ok, Diana was living my dream. Researching at Oxford, spending all her spare time in the Bodleian, having anxiety attacks, ok, that's not cool, but I have them, so I can relate, rowing, hey, I always wanted to do rowing, until I realized you had to get up at dawn. She was living the dream life. Then a tall dark stranger entered into her life and it started to get weird and silly. I was ok with the occasional weird multiple species yoga class, yes, there are vampires, witches and daemons doing yoga, because the book had Diana and Oxford. She was strong, independent, active. She kicked some serious ass, all the while in the city of Inspectors Morse and Lewis. Then off the France and she becomes the damsel in distress. She has power, but she can't access it unless certain things happen, mainly, if Matthew is there or in danger. So Deborah took this strong female lead and instantly made her Bella. The Twilight comparisons come fast and quick once Diana because vulnerable. Diana embraces Edward's... oh, wait, I mean Matthew's family, over her own. She continually gets injured and has to be protected, despite the fact that her genes show that she might be the most powerful witch ever. Matthew's siblings all argue over Diana but in the end accept her as one of their own. Sheesh... it went quickly from being a fun read to being an adult Stephenie Meyer's book.

Yet, there's so much silliness I can't stop listing it! Vampires, Daemons and Witches are worried about their races dying out and are obsessed with Darwin. Diana's family house is full of tons and tons and tons of ghosts. It's this weird house that gives and takes as people need, like a room of requirement but house sized. Of course Matthew has an evil ex that almost destroys them randomly thrown in at the end. Diana didn't choose her own fate, she didn't turn away from witchcraft because she wanted too, but because of some juju her parents worked on her. Diana has become a puppet that does yoga. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to read the next book, but now we'll have the silliness of time travel on top of everything else. It's almost as if Deborah Harkness took every single trope in popular romance and fantasy and made it into one book. Some of it worked, some of it didn't. The way she describes the world is beautiful, and she is a talented writer, she just needs to learn you don't need to throw in everything AND the kitchen sink. Also, never, ever do anything that can make someone see parallels between your work and Twilight.


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