So, he’s handsome then? – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A-Discovery-of-WitchesThis book is too long. The story is interesting, but there’s about three hundred pages of redundant description. To make matters worse it’s not even a complete story. I did know there were follow up books, but I had thought this volume stood in its own right, which it don’t.

I’m prepared to concede this book isn’t aimed at me. The numerous references to Twilight and the words, ‘illicit’, ‘sexy’ and ‘romp’ in the blurb, should have tipped me off.

Brooding and wonderfully handsome vampire Matthew Clairmont, I assume, has female readers swooning. He certainly seems to have an affect on narrator Diana Bishop; we’re told he does over and over again. We’re told he is handsome, that he broods, that he wears grey clothes. He’s an animal, he’s caring, he’s protective. His skin is cold. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s brooding, he wears grey clothes.  He’s handsome, his skin is cold, he’s brooding, he’s lived for a long time, he’s an animal, he’s clever, he’s handsome, he’s protective, he broods, he wears grey clothes; and, oh yes, he’s cold. Not sure about blood-sucking, but DoW certainly sapped my will to live.

She’s a witch, he’s a vampire. Two races, naturally mistrustful when not outright hostile. She’s in denial about being a witch. He’s lived for centuries. He’s a monster, she’s…er… a history professor. He has cold blood (did I mention that), and is, apparently, above averagely handsome. For reasons that are vaguely explained they fall madly in love with one another almost immediately, but it’s a forbidden love. Mixed race relationships definitely frowned upon. The scene where Matthew takes Diana back to his family castle to meet his centuries old witch hating mother is like Twilight crossed with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Anyway he’s all arcane knowledge, pent up aggression and ice cool control. Imagine George Clooney as a salt-water crocodile.

OK – I exaggerate. The romance stuff did take up too much of my time, especially as it’s so overblown but the fantasy/magic via academia thread eventually lured me in. The three races of creatures living amongst us, daemon, vampire and witch, is hardly original, but the evolutionary biology standpoint that Harkness takes does give a fresh angle. Science vs supernatural is always a blend I enjoy, and the author lends it some academic rigour that feels plausible whilst it entertains. Origin stories are nearly always interesting and so it is with the root of Diana’s power, particularly whilst she is investigating what she can do. The various branches of her witchy talents are interesting and well thought out.

I know this book is very popular and has a large following, but I can’t fathom why. It’s like Twilight but more grown up, the Da Vinci Code with more rigour, but it’s little more than that. There was enough in it to keep me reading, though I was sorely tempted to stop a number of times. There are places where it’s just plain boring and, as I may have mentioned, repetitive. It is intermittently readable and exciting, but templars, witches and old books aren’t enough on their own to make a brilliant story, no matter how many times you tell me how handsome the lead vampire is. Perhaps its academic leanings have dressed the book up to be something more interesting than it really is (probably in enigmatic monochrome), but I found it little more than average.

Many Thanks to the team at Bookbridgr for sending me a copy of this book. 


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