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Something Like a Review – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I survived the craziest couple of weeks of my adult life and lived to tell the tale. As promised, I have a post-Thanksgiving SLaR just to prove I made it through in the flesh. (It’s late, but it’s still Sunday, so it still counts!)

Let me preface my comments about this book by saying that I liked it, but with the disclaimer that I didn’t love it. I enjoyed the premise of the story, and I could get lost in the telling of it (for the most part), but there were enough things that just bugged me that I can’t give it more than 3 glittering stars. After reading some reviews, I have a feeling I’m going to pluck some nerves, but isn’t that what talking about books and art does? So, enough yammering, and on to the plucking!

This is one of those books that I saw EVERYWHERE for so long that I finally decided I was going to pick it up and see what it was all about. This curiosity may kill me at some point because it seems to be one lesson I have not been able to conquer – just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean I’m going to fall all over myself when I read it. I admit that I groaned inwardly when I realized it was yet another vampire book, and yet another tale of a (somewhat) human female falling for the enigmatic bloodsucker. Yet, I persevered. And throughout the beginning, I enjoyed it. The story combines supernaturals like vampires, witches and demons and stirs them all up with humans and, as most experienced readers would expect, hijinks ensue.

But.

Because there is always a “but…”

What brought my enjoyment to a halt was Diana’s transformation throughout the book. She begins as an independent, stubborn and well-established scholar of alchemy with witchy tendencies that she staunchly denied, but occasionally used against her better judgment. She was a little too rigid for me to enjoy as a character, but I thought that meant great room for her to grow and develop. Instead, she started regressing. To avoid spoiler-y-ness, I won’t go into why or how, but suffice to say that by the end, I thought I was reading yet another Twilight-esque encounter between needy female and vamp-in-existential-crisis. I spent a good deal of time rolling my eyes, but I think it was because my expectations of seeing Diana develop into an even stronger female character throughout the book were sorely disappointed.

Another thing that irked me and helped subtract from the star-count was the fact that the book was clearly written to be a first novel in a series. There was a cursory drawstring closure to the ending, but it only served to close the book, not complete a story line, at least in my opinion. This bugs me, and always has with series books. In my opinion, they should stand alone as stories, even if the door is left open for the next one. A less than satisfying end is a turn-off to me, especially when it’s clearly being done to allow for the next book.

Even though I have issues with it, I still liked the story. I still liked the idea of the interplay between the witches, vamps and demons, and I will still read the next one which has come out fairly recently. I will give this series one more book to win me over and return Diana to her independence as a woman capable of standing on her own two feed, and if that one gives me Twilight flashbacks, I’m closing it and walking away.

I think this is one that fans or even those who appreciated the Twilight story will love. It’s a more grown-up version, but all the right elements are there (except the werewolves), and maybe this will serve as a stepping stone between a facile story and one that is more complex and intricate.

 

Medium: Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Multiple versions also available from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 3 stars

Potential re-read: Probably not, but YMMV.

Dead-tree worthy?: Not for me. It’s a beast and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. The things that bugged me did so with enough intensity that while I will read at least the next in the series, I won’t likely purchase either of them unless something drastic happens in the next installment. If I want to read it again, there’s always the library.

 

 

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