Read: April 28 — May 03GoodreadsFormat: E-bookRating:

Earlier this month, I finally catalogued one book for my 2021 Reading Challenge! Well, technically a second book but the first one was just a bit of rereading, skipping most of the story so it doesn’t really count, does it? Yes, the reading challenge was going really bleak and terrible but I felt a bit of hope after finishing A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.

I had first heard of A Discovery of Witches as a tv series but did not know that it was a show based on a book until I came across a positive review of the book that captivated me while I was craving for something Twilight-esque to reduce the stress I was in at that time. Odd, I know. I actually tried to entertain myself with Breaking Dawn, the last book of the Twilight series, and even binged the movies but I was just cringing bone deep the entire time and joined Robert Pattinson in dissing the movies right after the entire excursion. I was very unsatisfied. And so, when the book review said that A Discovery of Witches is Twilight but more mature, I immediately decided to read it.

A Discovery of Witches follows Diana Bishop, a witch of a very powerful and distinguished descent but after suffering a terrible loss, she has since decided to abandon her magic and heritage, preferring her life as a scholar and historian. That is until she uncovered an alchemical book and, thus, found herself being forced back to the life she abandoned. A life of magic and creatures—witches, daemons, and vampires, particularly an alluring vampire named Matthew Clairmont.

It is unfair to compare the books of Meyer and Harkness but I did. I did.

A Discovery of Witches is certainly more mature than Twilight. For one, the characters are all adults which gives a more mature tone to everything including giving an impression of a wider perspective that, while only revolving on a handful of locations, the story doesn’t feel that constricting. The romance, too, was mature. Although, given that it is a fantasy book, the romance storyline was still working on a glamorized romanticisation (all that destiny, fate, and ‘Us Against the World’ feels, you know?) and some clichés, it didn’t feel as much. It didn’t feel like it was the only driving force.

There was a sensible attraction between the leads—not just because her blood smelled tasty and he was sparkling. There were conversations, a steady progress, and such that the grandeur of love was more of life choices and not the inner workings of some magical otherworldly powers which I really like. The romantic devices were still there, don’t get me wrong, but to me, it was just an encompassing bind to tie the story, to make it seamless. And I thought it made for a far better romantic chemistry. It made me root for our leads and their relationship.

“From birth I have searched for you,” Matthew whispered with a smile, his accent strongly French. “Since finding you I have been able to hold you in my arms, have heard your heart beat against mine. It would have been a terrible thing to die without knowing what it feels like to truly love.”A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

However, I do agree with The Spines’ review of A Discovery of Witches in that this story is not for everyone.

The bigger part of the story is romance and the pacing isn’t, by definition,‘slow’ but it does seem like it due to the insane amount of details. I found it exhausting, especially at the start. I’m someone who would easily get enraptured when reading, refusing and not being able to put down a book or story for even a minute. Yet, I found pausing vital while reading A Discovery of Witches. To refresh my mind. For more patience. The book is too detailed and while it was nice and called for an excellent world-building and aesthetic, reading paragraphs about wine and tea and a greater part of a chapter spent narrating the preparation of a date rather than the actual date, mostly leaves you wondering, was that all necessary? The answer: no.

I also found that the absurd amount of details dampened the shock and astonishment for the details that are actually important, the details that are called back to at the later part of the story—something that the author does a few times. The fluidity and connections just get a bit lost. The surprises could have been more startling and thrilling. Still, the book does know how to capture the reader at parts, moving the story and the characters in a way enough to make the reader curious and encouraged to continue the reading.

But, what I truly loved about A Discovery of Witches is Matthew Clairmont and that finally and I mean, finally we have a vampire that has lived an immortal life. Granted my bar is low for my comparisons of vampire lore (just Twilight and Vampire Diaries), I guess I was bound to appreciate Matthew and the vampires in this story with one formal sentence and one small callback to history but I digress.

Matthew and the rest of the vampire characters have truly lived a long life in this story. They have a wide character background. They are part of history, like an immortal I think should be. A Discovery of Witches uses a lot of historical facts and people in the story, mainly to further emphasize the allure of vampires and their lives (especially Matthew as a romantic lead) to our main character and narrator, Diana, a historian, but also for us, readers. For me, it gives more mystery to the vampire characters. They seem a lot more interesting. And although I spent most of my time after reading such historical facts annoying my father—the walking, talking history book and encyclopedia of my family—with questions about it, I truly liked how the author, Harkness, mixed both factual and fantasy. She inserted some semblance of reality to a story that’s very much fantasy which I think made everything more riveting.


Diana, on the other hand, does not hold any interest in me. At least as much as it should, given that the story is narrated in first person in Diana’s perspective with two or three chapters here and there with a third person perspective from other characters. She’s smart and witty, very funny a few times. Annoying sometimes, too, though I really appreciated that she’s not one dimensional, especially considering that she’s a female lead. I found most female characters are presented as either damsels in distress or irrationally invincible and perfect and nothing in between but I really like that Diana diverts from this. I found her both likeable and irritating. She’s powerful and capable but also dependent. She holds her own ground as a good narrator and an interesting character being the center of things, I just don’t feel as compelled to her. But that’s just me, I guess.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. My restlessness coming into the story was satisfied. My stress was reduced. While not perfect and monumentally impressive, Harkness has written a story and characters you can be very fond of—I am now very fond of. I was curious and delighted enough that I wanted to continue reading onto the next book of the trilogy, entitled All Souls, A Discovery of Witches is part of. Perhaps also watch the tv series based on the trilogy, as well.

I would recommend this book to readers looking for a fantasy that’s more driven by the romance side of the story than adventure. To people looking for something light (story-wise) to read without compromising some fantasy aspects and a bit of thrill and mystery. Just like I was warned by the review that recommended this book, be patient with the pacing and the clichés. Give the story and characters a chance and I think one can easily find this book enjoyable too.

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