A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

It begins with absence and desire.  It begins with blood and fear.  It begins with a discovery of witches.” – By Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches

From Lauren’s Perspective: 

A Discovery of Witches is the first novel in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.  It follows the life of Diana Bishop, a would-be witch, who is against using her magical powers ever since her parents death.  A series of odd occurances and chance meetings turn her world upside down until Diana becomes the most wanted person in the supernatural world.

It was the books intriguing back cover that pulled me in and made me a fervent reader of what was held within its pages, but oddly enough, what was written on the back barely covered what actually occurred in this novel.  The novel sold itself as a story of a witch who chooses to ignore her history of witchcraft and instead prove herself without it.  It sells itself as a supernatural thriller about a very old manuscript that makes itself known to the heroine of the story.  But to me, more than anything, this book was little more than a grown up version of the Twilight Series.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed this book immensely and plan to read the rest of the series, however there were some definite similarities between the two.  There were, however, a number of stark differences as well.

Similarity:  Matthew, just like Edward, resists his temptation for the heroine at the beginning by trying to stay away from her.  He realizes quickly that he will be unable to.

Similarity:  Both couples abstain from sex.

Similarity: Both couples seem to enlist the rage of every single supernatural force in the known world.

Similarity:  Diana seems to make similar bad decisions as Bella, although not to the same degree of stupidity, that end up putting her in grave danger time and time again.

Similarity:  Every time Diana is in danger, Matthew goes into a rage and immediately blames himself.

Similarity: Both couples are prepared to spend their lives together after only a couple weeks of knowing one another.

Similarity:   The story revolved around the love of a woman and a vampire.

Difference:  Bella and Diana could not be more different in character.  Diana is incredibly intelligent, self-sufficient, courageous and independent   Bella is not.

Similarity:  The story’s hero is a vampire named Matthew.  He is a control freak who wants to keep Diana in line.   He is like this because he is a vampire and it is in their nature.

Difference:  While Matthew is controlling and attempts to tell Diana exactly what to do at all times, does creepy things like breaking into her apartment, smelling her when she’s hungry, and watching her sleep; he does let up of most of the controlling elements by the end of the first novel.  Knowing that Diana is as independent and self-sufficient as she is, he quickly realizes that she will not simply lay down and follow his orders.  He never totally loses his possessive ways, but unlike Edward, they do diminish a lot.  He does allow Diana to grow into her own powers.

Difference:  Deborah Harkness is very obviously incredibly intelligent.  She has a broad vocabulary which she uses to its full potential and she obviously did a lot of research in order to write this book.  She writes in depth about history, alchemy, science, magic, and geography.  She writes in depth about everything.  This is the exact opposite of Stephanie Meyers, who realistically could have told her entire story in one book rather than four had she taken out her overused phrases and recycled descriptions.  While Harkness is clearly a superior writer, she does tend to overwrite in areas.  The 700+ page book could have been told sufficiently in half the pages.  It is still far superior to Twilight in both writing style and intellect.  You won’t feel as though you have lost brain cells after reading this “version” of the vampire love story.

Having said all of this, the book is well worth a read.  While there are many similarities to the Twilight Saga, it is also completely different.  Harkness gives the reader useful world knowledge in the middle of her supernatural love story that are well placed and make you think.  For instance, she writes, “As far as I can tell there are only two emotions that keep the world spinning year after year…One is fear. The other is desire.”  Matthew spends much of the novel proving this point time and time again.  He has spent his life trying to prove this theory, and has had an incredibly long life to do so.  It is these moments of deep thought that take the novel miles above anything Stephanie Meyer could have hoped for.  In the search for the lost manuscript the novel asks “What is the point of life?” time and time again.  

The book is interesting and extremely well written, my only criticism is its length because I feel as though some of the descriptiveness in the story’s intellectual matter was a little dry at parts.  Otherwise, if you like the supernatural, and if you are like me and have always loved a good vampire love story, definitely give this series a read.  Unlike Twilight, you may just learn something.

Rating

Plot – 3 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 3.5 out of 5
Characters – 4 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 4 out of 5 

Overall Score – 14.5 out of 20


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