I probably would have read this book closer to its release, but unfortunately it’s part of a trilogy (this followed by (Shadow of Night and The Book of Life) and I didn’t want to read the books as they came out so I waited to read it. I really wanted to read it a lot sooner because a lot of my blogger friends who really enjoyed it. That being said, I’m a little grumpy as I’ve just found out that Harkness will continue writing in this universe with the release of The Serpent’s Mirror next year. So bah.
If I had to break this down into a one sentence review it would be: Harry Potter meets Twilight for adults. That’s definitely a bit reductionist, but as I was reading that’s what I kept thinking. It wasn’t as much of a compulsive read as either of those series, but A Discovery of Witches definitely stands on its own.
All of this being said, this is one of those books where I’m torn on my response. I loved a lot of the book, but similar to a lot of people on Goodreads (site link) I felt that there were a few instances where there was too much description. It doesn’t take anything away from the book, but the over description could keep a lot of people from reading the book because it’s a lot heavier handed in the beginning of the book than at the end. With this though, Harkness really creates a sense of space for Oxford and France, I mean if she hasn’t spent time at Oxford University or in a castle in France it sure feels like it.
Harkness clearly did her homework (based on my minimal knowledge) when it came to the historical references she included. I love how she brought history to life, not only because of her writing, but because many of her characters had lived it. This is going to be one of those novels that even if you don’t truly enjoy the story, the characters will make or break it for you.
The one thing I had an issue with was the magic. Harkness did a great job of slowly revealing why Diana doesn’t use her magic and at the end I kept thinking “OMG.” Maybe it’s because I’m comparing it to a young adult series (aka Harry Potter), but I felt that Harkness really started mid-story dropping all the magical beings, all the magical potential and pretty much just all the magic right on the reader.
Recommendation: I think it’s worth the read, but be warned it could be a bit slow. I liked Harkness’ writing style and I’m enjoying the story so far. I hope we learn more about Emily and Sarah in The Book of Life, based on where I’m assuming most of Shadow of Night will take place I’m guessing we won’t see them again for a while. Oh and Nathaniel and Sophie, they were introduced so late I can’t wait until they come back.
Opening Line: “The leather bound volume was nothing remarkable.”
Closing Line: “What we’ve always done, Joanna, Bridget replied. Remember the past—and await the future.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from A Discovery of Witches
“Scholars do one of the two things when they discover information that doesn’t fit what they already know. Either they sweep it aside so it doesn’t bring their cherished theories into question or they focus on it with laserlike intensity and try to get to the bottom of the mystery. If this book hadn’t been under a spell, I might have been tempted to do the latter. Because it was bewitched, I was strongly inclined toward the former.” (13)
“‘Normal’ is a bedtime story—a fable—that humans tell themselves to feel better when faced with overwhelming evidence that most of what’s happening around them is not ‘normal’ at all.” (86)
“Somewhere in each of these stories, there’s a nugget of truth, something that frightened humans and helped them deny we were real. The strongest distinguishing characteristics of humans is their power of denial. I have strength and long life, you have supernatural abilities, daemons have awe-inspiring creativity. Humans can convince themselves up is down and black is white. It’s their special gift.” (142)
“But it was not only vampires who kept secrets. All creatures learned to do so out of fear of discovery and to preserve something—anything—just for ourselves within our clannish, almost tribal, world. Matthew was not simply a hunter, a killer, a scientist, or a vampire, but a web of secrets to share and then let the others go.” (327)
“Einstein said that all physicists were aware that the distinctions between past, present, and future were only what he called ‘a stubbornly persistent illusion.’ Not only did he believe in marvels and wonders, he also believed in the elasticity of time.” (522)