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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

We read this book because it was advertised as “a more adult version of Twilight.” Lots of Ern’s complaints about Twilight stem from its stupidity, so Ern was anxious to see how that story would go down if it were written by someone with a brain. We also like the genre of urban fantasy and enjoy vampire books in general. Leeard even enjoys Twilight. Sadly, this book bored the pants off of us. The only reason we finished it was that we got it on audiobook and didn’t want to waste it, since audiobooks are expensive. The book then left us without resolving most of the story arcs.

That was the most excruciating listen of all time. It felt about ten times as long and took about a month to listen to, since we didn’t want to listen to it. The weakest thing about this book is that the romance was not romantic. The appeal of romance novels is that they get our lady minds in a dither and put butterflies in our stomachs. Maybe the main male character was too controlling. Maybe he was just too French. But he didn’t do it for us. The main female character was a Mary Sue to the max, and we got sick of hearing about how brilliant, gorgeous, and talented she was. We just weren't rooting for this couple or living vicariously through the female character, and that's what romance novels are for. 

The book focused on unimportant details like what the main characters ate and drank, mundane tasks like hair brushing, putting clothes on, yoga classes (seriously. We nearly died of boredom), napping, studying, whining, and daily errands. It didn’t just do this once or twice but throughout most of the book. If we were to cut this book down to the intriguing parts, it would be 80 pages, not 592. The peeks into the main character’s mind/prose/narration was uninteresting. There were some well-written parts, there was great world building, and we appreciated the author’s knowledge of history and biology, but she just didn’t do anything thrilling with it.

There was absolutely no humor in this book anywhere. There was little action. The girl is a damsel in distress, despite being very powerful. For most of the book, she doesn’t use her powers (for no good reason). She faints and has panic attacks and shakes a lot. Each panic attack takes about 10 pages of the book to get through. What's funny is that while she's just as big of an affront to feminism as Bella Swan, the author takes great pains to try to convince us that she is strong, modern, and independent, despite her fragile actions. We liked the ancient gods, knights, and time travel, but by the time you get there, you will have to slog through 14 hours of NOTHING. This book was also pretty shallow and cold. 

When you read a book about vampires, it’s usually a guilty pleasure thing, not a highbrow, enriching thing. There is no reason for urban fantasy to sacrifice being entertaining for being scholarly and grounded. This is the first book of a trilogy. The biggest insult we can give a book is that we will not read the next one. Maybe it would have been more enjoyable if we had read a physical copy, since we could have read it faster and skimmed the boring details. But alas, we had to listen to every dull word. 

We kept thinking it was building to something by being slow. But, spoiler alert, nothing exciting ever happens. What a waste of our lives. It’s a very typical romance, only it’s not a very thrilling one and it drags enough to make even Ern miss Twilight. We don’t have short attention spans either. We enjoy classics and one of us read the unedited version of The Stand by Stephen King. But hey, those were good, so they were worth it.

Book Grade: F


  1. "Maybe it would have been more enjoyable if we had read a physical copy, since we could have read it faster and skimmed the boring details."

    Trust me: no, reading a physical copy did NOT make it any better. I agree with this review 100%.

    1. Hahahaha, good. Now we won't feel like we should try a physical copy of book 2.