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Review: A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

This book is like if Twilight fanfic and Harry Potter fanfic had a baby. And was almost 700 pages long. Neither of those things are good things.


This was 688 pages of Deborah Harkness cribbing straight from Twilight world-building (honestly, I'm shocked Stephanie Meyer hasn't sued this woman for copyright infringement) and throwing in some poorly described, poorly circumscribed, absolutely nonsensical witch folklore and mythology as well - all centered on a main character who spends the entirety of the novel being a brat, throwing temper tantrums, whingeing, refusing to accept any responsibility whatsoever or learn even the most basic of all information, making bad choice after bad choice after bad choice, complaining about people bossing her around and then going along with it and doing nothing to change her situation despite the fact that she's supposed to be, and is described by other characters as, both highly intelligent and the most powerful witch of all time, being sore about people withholding relevant information from her and then making the deliberate choice to do the exact same damn thing, and just generally being so childish and irresponsible and reckless and annoying that honestly I'm surprised her love interest didn't just let her die in the first hundred pages. He would have been better off.


And, good grief, this book was so long - and ended up feeling so utterly, entirely pointless. Every single thing that happened basically just ended up being an elaborate series of set pieces to set up the plot for the next book in this series, so that I felt like I spent 688 pages running around trying to keep up with needlessly complex plot points, character "growth" that felt awfully convenient (oh, how convenient that Diana Bishop just happens to be the most powerful witch in the history of ever and learns how to use her powers with no instruction or character development or personal growth or anything right in time to set up the plot of book 2!) rather than earned. Every single choice the characters made was A) bad and B) had no stakes or consequences whatsoever, so the plot stagnated frustratingly for what felt like years with absolutely nothing to buy it back from being poorly written mediocrity.


Right, what else did I not like about this book (I hated everything about it so much I legitimately cannot remember - I maybe should have been taking notes as I hate-read). Oh, yes, the exposition of the plot points was particularly bad. It was basically multiple repetitions of dialogue in which one of the two main characters gets upset when they find out the other one was withholding information; they have a conversation about it and agree to never do it again; the plot/exposition/world-building moves along an incremental inch; rinse and repeat fifty pages later. Reader, it made me want to burn things. And not in a good way.


And, oh my days, the love interest. Matthew Claremont is a vampire who is basically Edward from Twilight (again - how did a reputable publisher go through with what is basically an extensive example of plagiarism?????). He is domineering, rude, arrogant, secretive, a liar, and worse; and we're supposed to believe that he's also insanely attractive and Diana is willing to just go along with everything he orders without ever putting up a fight despite the fact that her internal monologue takes him to task for it constantly? Like, honestly, the way Matthew speaks to her and those around him is downright emotionally abusive - he's manipulative, secretive, withholds key information, tells Diana who she's allowed to speak to and not, when to eat and when to sleep, and coerces her into going on birth control when she doesn't want to. Maybe I just don't find domineering and abusive men attractive, but we're supposed to believe this is a love affair worth going to war over? Maybe I'm just a cynic, but no man is worth going to war over - especially not this vampire turd. Fucking get a grip, Diana. Go to therapy, have a glass of wine, and get a fucking grip.


The only advantage this book had was, because it was first-person narration, the long stretches of exposition and world-building happened in internal monologues rather than dialogue.


Nothing about this book is good. This book should never have been published. No one should read it.


Happy reading,

Amélie xx

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About

I’m Amélie, I love books and reading, and I also love talking about them.

I’m incredibly lucky to be bilingual, so I read books in both French and English, and will talk about both of those on here – although I will do more in English, since I know that’s probably what the majority of the people who ever find this blog will be interested in!

I also like history, traveling, Shakespeare, coffee, cheese, musicals, Italian Baroque art, the ballet, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, flowers, makeup, high heels, and baking. Yes, I’m a walking cliché. I am aware.

Please do tweet at me with any suggestions/book recommendations/thoughts.

In case you’re curious – yes, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time.