Kash’s #CBR5 Review #15: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I gathered, from the title, that this book would have something to do with witches. I don’t read blurbs, so I didn’t know there were vampires and daemons also, but there are. I’ve read a fair bit of literature dealing with vampires and the humans obsessed with them. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve always been drawn to supernatural stuff. I mean, I still watch Supernatural, even though it completely jumped the shark like, three seasons ago. But dude. C’mon.

So that being said, I’ve never sought out stories dealing with witches. I guess something about seeing The Craft in fifth grade scarred me for life. Regardless, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book, especially when vampires popped up and I have been making a concerned effort in avoiding vampires for a while. When I picked up this book on Saturday morning, I was pleasantly surprised. This appeared (hint: appeared) to be a book written about supernatural creatures, for adults, that wasn’t full of cliches or erotica disguised as a supernatural crime novel (thanks for nothing Anita Blake). I was wrong.

Diana Bishop is descended from two prominent people/characters that you’ve known since (at least) high school: Brigid Bishop and John Proctor. Yup, from The Crucible and the infamous Salem witch trials. When her parents were married (they’re the ones that joined the families together) she was born into unimaginable power and an unwillingness to embrace and thus control it. After Diana’s parents are murdered, she goes to live with her aunt, who is also a witch. She pours her life into her non-magical studies, not wanting anyone to think she were using her powers to advance her career.

Fast forward to present day and she’s living in Oxford, doing some research for her new endeavors. She comes upon a book that draws to her magical senses, and resists it based on those instincts. Turns out the book is a big deal, and a bunch of people have been trying to find it for over 100 years.

That part is cool. Her witch abilities are cool. The part that is not cool is detailed below and will contain spoilers.

Diana meets, duh duh duuhhhhh, a vampire. He’s mystical. He’s magical. He’s brooding. He’s dramatic. He’s possessive. So yeah, he’s a typical vampire. He pretends he’s a fan of her work but he’s looking for this book too. Fine, whatever. The part that really gets me is about 3/4 of the way through. Diana and Matthew the vampire are in love and she, as the hero of the book, naturally does something really stupid and gets captured by some of the angry witches also looking for the damn book.

So she’s being tortured and she’s having visions of her mother telling her to be strong and yadda yadda yadda. So eventually Matthew finds her and she’s rescued and they doctor her up (him and his family of healer vampires) and she’s so vulnerable and wounded and all she can talk about is Matthew this and Matthew that. Seriously? She almost dies and is all, “if only I can touch his cold skin against my warm fingertips of longing and desire for we are lovers and are intertwined for all eternity and I’m a generic and boring romantic lead.” You know, that kind of stuff. I’m so over it! Sookie does the same shit and it makes me want to punch them in the throat.

Maybe I’m just not into romance novels. But everything was fine until then! Granted, at the end when about 30 more characters are introduced it gets a little blurry, but other than that it’s an original take on a worn subject matter that I expected so much more from. Diana is so independent and strong, and then Matthew comes along and she’s all Jell-O and unicorns coming out her fingertips. I’m just so bored with reading about these women who fall in love with vampires and then end up almost getting killed repeatedly because they are in stupid situations doing stupid shit for their eternal princes. UGH.

Oh, and they know each other for three weeks before they’re “married”. For serious. It’s not like, church married, but apparently whatever they do it’s official for vampires, so that’s that. Three weeks. Less than that before the unicorns start.

Also, Matthew’s vampire family reminds me a lot of the Cullens and it was gross.

Aside from all of that, it’s a good book. The vampire mythology is fresh and different, which is nice. There’s some cool witch shenanigans that take place. Her childhood home is apparently haunted and can change shape and it’s contents based on what’s happening. It’s like a cross between Monster House and Smart House. But awesome.

So if you can stomach the generic romance, I would pick this up because the rest of it’s worth it. If you can’t, and you got as irritated as I did just thinking about it, I would avoid. But now that it’s all out in the open and I know what to expect, I may pick up the second one later on (it’s a trilogy). It’s a good story (aside from the love story), and I kind of want to see how it turns out.

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6 thoughts on “Kash’s #CBR5 Review #15: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

  1. “Diana is so independent and strong, and then Matthew comes along and she’s all Jell-O and unicorns coming out her fingertips.”

    Yeah, I’m out. Although, if you actually COULD shoot unicorns out of your fingertips independently of falling in love with some brooding bullshit that makes you get rid of your personality and the unicorns weren’t, like, life sized unicorns and the horns were somehow tucked in so you didn’t have blood just pouring from bloody finger stumps, that would be wicked cool.

    This book was on my TBR list for awhile, but I don’t think I’ve seen a positive CBR review. I took it off after reading yet another disappointed entry, and it’s going to stay off.

    • The worst part is that all the crap starts when you’re more than halfway through. So you think you’re good, and then you just get pissed.

      But I agree. If there were tiny unicorns like those baby giraffes in those commercials that would be baller as hell.

  2. I definitely agree with your review and that it was such a wasted opportunity when it just became Twilight with sex. The one thing that annoyed me that you didn’t mention were all the descriptions of wine and food and so forth . . . I like food, I like wine, I like being told about those kinds of things but she went into so much detail it was irritating (for example, the meal planning for having a vampire over) – I was just thinking, you obviously did a lot of research and that’s awesome but if I wanted super detailed analysis of all the wine I would go a wine tasting or read the wine notes – I don’t need it for everything the character drinks. Tasted of “Butterscotch and chalk” – okay.

  3. What about the sweater wearing and tea drinking? In fact that was all I remember about the protagonist – her fondness for wearing sweaters and drinking tea. And then ruminating on just how good the tea was.

    • Haha – yes! I felt like the tea was a not so sly way to tell us that she’s WAY more British than we are, even though she’s American, and how much better her life is because of tea. And rowing. And yoga. Okay. Now that I think about it this book is dumb.

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