Book Review: A Discovery Of Witches

discovery of witches

I usually never write book reviews, because I’m not that hardcore a reader. But I’m doing a public service here by telling you to avoid “A Discovery Of Witches” by Deborah Harkness.

To summarize how I feel about this book, you can read my Facebook status posting on it from a few days ago:

With growing dread as I plough through the book, I realize Deborah Harkness’ “A Discovery Of Witches” is a Mills and Boon novel disguised as a horror-fantasy historical epic. Full of petty details and emotions, incessant repeated self-criticism and overblown expressions of love, hate, jealousy and unnecessary angst. Me no like read this girly book.

You know, frankly I wonder if I’m wasting my time writing this quick review.

Enough of my time has been wasted enduring each chapter of this thick novel (at nearly 600 pages), hoping that it would pick up the pace and stop being so whiny.

Yet I must do this because for the sake of other intelligent readers who might be misled by the positive reviews on Amazon, or the fact that it was the Amazon “Best Of The Month in Feb 2011”.

I am thankful that I bought this book on my Kindle, otherwise I would have thrown the paperback/hardcover version at the wall or perhaps the author (if I ever meet her) halfway through.

Here’s a quick synopsis

Uber-powerful young witch Diana Bishop denies her magical heritage, hoping to find an alternative lifestyle in being a boring academic (why, just like the author Deborah Harkness) but gets embroiled in some major uproar among other witches, vampires and talented weirdoes (called “daemons” in the book). And why, she has to fall in love with an ancient, ridiculously perfect vampire. The vampire Matthew turns out to have many secrets himself, which is a big surprise to Diana despite the fact he’s 1500 years old. Their sordid, but diplomatic love gets other people upset, more than the fact that she managed to get access to some mysterious book called Ashmole 728. A whole bunch of evil vampires and witches try to take them down, but they don’t seem to try very hard, given that they pop up once every few weeks, leaving the main characters to keep talking, wining, dining, talking, wining, arguing, whining and some serious whingeing. Nevermind the fact that Diana happens to be more powerful than Galactus – she’d rather whine and drive the reader to a quick death.

Here’s why the book sucks (oh! Bad vampiric pun, sorry), if you haven’t figured out from my synopsis

– Repetition repetition, and err, repetition. The same plot points, angsty thoughts and hollow threats from Diana’s enemies keep being repeated over and over again. It’s a sign of terrible editing and little of actual proof-reading.

– Author gives away too much of her own fancies. A history professor, Deborah attempts to put her knowledge to good use with numerous references to historical figures or settings. But seriously, EVERYONE is sick of the Knight Templars and the Crusades.

– Too predictable and really lousy pacing. By 50% of the book, you’d realize nothing much is going to happen to advance the plot, even though every chapter seems to desire to want to end in a cliffhanger. The pace picks up a little at 70% but the energy is sapped out within the next 20 or 30 pages. A good writer knows how to tease the audience, and provide highs and lows – Deborah demonstrates none of that finesse and is lost in her own thoughts of “If I were in love with a perfect vampire, what would I be thinking incessantly about all the time?”

– Everyone in the book appears to be extremely one-dimensional – they can only emote in a particular way and don’t really have any major character flaws.

Perhaps I’m not the right target audience for this book. Maybe it’s written for lovelorn girls.

Or perhaps I’m sick of vampire novels. But the fact is I just read Justin Cronin’s The Passage and I enjoyed it thoroughly, even though it was another spin of post-apocalyptic Earth + vampires (ie. I Am Legend v2.0).

So read this, Ms Harkness, if you happen to stumble upon this review – Write for your audience, not for yourself. No thanks for wasting my time and my money, and this could possibly the worst book I’ve ever read.

Leave a Reply