TV Prep: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I had originally planned to read A Discovery of Witches before the TV adaptations’ premiere last weekend, but between Stephen King’s Pet Sematary dragging on and this novel’s lack of magic (both figuratively and literally), turning the page has become a real struggle as of late.

To get to the heart of why A Discovery of Witches failed to cast a spell on me, there’s no need to look any further than the male lead. Somehow, in the 1500 plus years he’s been living as a vampire he never learned how to be charming, which is a key feature for a romantic lead to have. Instead he’s just this unpleasantly domineering man who I can’t imagine enjoying spending time with, let alone falling in love with. But hey, throw around words like infatuation and you can just bypass writing in all that pesky groundwork when it comes to the believability in the formation of a relationship, right? She loves him and he loves her because reasons.

Suffice it to say no one should be surprised that, in addition to repeatedly begging Deborah Harkness to stop earnestly using the phrase “I am inside you” (how did no beta reader or editor suggest that she reconsider this wording?), my note taking consisted largely of writing the word “groan” in the margins of many a page. The hopeless romantic in me will forgive a lot of uncomfortably sincere proclamations of love when I believe in the relationship, unfortunately no amount of yoga mat carrying will convince me of any romantic leanings between the lead and her overbearing stalker, no matter how good he smells. And you better believe I judge all 893 people who, according to the Kindle app, highlighted passages like:

Somewhere in the center of my soul, a rusty chain began to unwind. It freed itself, link by link, from where it had rested unobserved, waiting for him… The chain continued to drop, to an unfathomable depth where there was nothing but darkness and Matthew. At last it snapped to its full length, anchoring me to the vampire… as long as I was connected to him, I was safe.

How did all you saps fall for this nonsense?

Complaints briefly aside (trust me that I still have many), A Discovery of Witches is not all a loss. About 350 or so pages in the focus finally starts panning out to the larger scale of things. It’s still obnoxiously grandiose in the “we’re the most important people in the world!” nonsense, but at least the comparisons being raised started moving away from Twilight and towards Harry Potter. Turns out making your main character a witch who hates magic isn’t the best idea, because it was within this latter section of the book involving an emotional, lively house, a collection of family ghosts, and a relationship I could finally believe in between a cat and the vampire who has bewitched her that I finally found happiness in the story. It gave the book some much needed character, and it’s a shame that this aspect of the world and Harkness’ storytelling took so long to get to. It may have only been a week or two into their flash fire of a relationship, but it was too little too late for my relationship with the book.

So that’s that. Even though reading A Discovery of Witches has me questioning my interest in the tv show, and I doubt I’ll ever pick up another book in the series, I’m still going to give it a shot because of the two leads. But please, please give Matthew a personality trait other than overbearing. You want viewers to stick around for the second season you just got renewed for, right?

So what do you guys think of this book? It has a 4/5 on Goodreads currently, so there are plenty of you out there who are probably giving me the stink eye right about now. What worked for you? Are you watching the show? Let me know in the comments below! And you can always find me on twitter at bewareoftrees.

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