A Discovery of Witches has been on my radar since shortly after it came out. I’d seen glowing reviews and heard great things from friends, so I figured I should give it a shot. I received this book for Christmas last year, and finally got a chance to pick it up about a week ago. Honestly, I’m not really sure what I think.

Here are the basics:

Our main character, Diana Bishop, is a historian and non-practicing witch descended from the famous Bridget Bishop (of Salem Witch Trials fame). Not wanting to be accused of getting ahead by using her magic, Diana refuses to use it for anything aside from necessities. When the book begins, Diana is at Oxford, researching alchemy for her next project. She puts in a request for the well-known Ashmole 782, and given her credentials, it’s readily provided to her. Suddenly, it seems that every supernatural creature in all of Europe has flocked to the library to watch what happens, because little did Diana know, but Ashmole 782 has been something of a mystery for hundreds of years. This super-special, super-enchanted manuscript has baffled even the most powerful witches, but Diana opens it by simply laying her hands on it. She knows there’s something special about it, but given the fact that she’s denying her magical heritage, she just gets what she needs and sends it back to the stacks. That’s when all hell breaks loose and she requires the assistance of a very old, very mysterious, very handsome vampire to keep her safe.

I’m not going to lie. I really struggled through the first half of this book. At one point, I made it about five pages before falling asleep. In the middle of the day. (That is not something I do, ever.) The first half of the book is dedicated to ridiculous, painstaking, overly-detailed descriptions of what Diana is reading, what Matthew is drinking, and what everything smells like. It’s like Harkness hadn’t quite found her plot yet, but wanted to keep filling pages while she thought about it. The pacing does improve about halfway in, but not enough to compensate for the first half. With the improved pacing comes a fairly predictable plot:

• Diana and Matthew passionately kiss. Diana wants to sleep with Matthew, but he turns her down.
• Diana is put in harm’s way. Can Matthew save her? (Of course he can.)
• Diana and Matthew passionately kiss. Diana wants to sleep with Matthew, but he turns her down.
• Diana is put in harm’s way. Matthew can’t save her this time, but can she save herself? (Obviously, there’s two more books.)
• Diana and Matthew passionately kiss. Diana wants to sleep with Matthew, but he turns her down.
• Diana is put in harm’s way. Can she figure out how to use her magic in order to save herself?
• Diana and Matthew passionately kiss. Diana wants to sleep with Matthew, but he turns her down.

I took issue with a few things in the book that made it really hard to like the main characters:

• Matthew thinks it’s perfectly fine to break into Diana’s rooms himself – before he even knows her. But he flies into a rage when he finds out that someone else did the same.
• Matthew convinces Diana to flee to France with him because of the supposed danger she’s in at Oxford. But once they’re there, he abandons her (probably because he loves her so much, or something) and she literally cries enough to fill a room with water.

This book is basically just Twilight for adults, and I really wish someone would have told me that before I started, because this is not what I signed up for.

A Discovery of Witches is much too long, and much too detailed. A decent editor could have cut out at least 100 pages of unnecessary descriptions and backstories. A good editor could have probably taken this book down to half its length.

I’m not sure whether I’ll pick up the next two books in the series. Harkness seems to think that by having Matthew repeatedly say, “You don’t need to know about this right now, I’ll tell you later,” I’ll be compelled to keep reading. Honestly, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. I was frustrated with the slow-moving plot and pages upon pages of unnecessary description. I wasn’t impressed by A Discovery of Witches, but it’s also not the worst book I’ve ever read.

I’ll give it a generous two and a half stars for drawing me in at the very end.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #1: a book with more than 500 pages.


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