A Discovery of Witches is More Engaging Than Twilight

BlogHer Review

Paranormal romance novels have been HUGE since the release of Twilight, and A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, is another smoldering vampire story with some fresh new twists and elements.

Rather than vampires and werewolves, we have a set of creature species - vampires, witches, and daemons, each with their own special appeal and prowess. The humans are still oblivious, and everyone wants to keep it that way.

This book is more intellectually sophisticated than most in its genre - these witches and vampires are science and history scholars, which makes for an interesting read. But just like its contemporaries (Twilight in particular), Witches has that characteristic vampire whirlwind romance.

Comparing this book to Twilight is inevitable (unless you haven't read Twilight, of course...). If you liked Twilight, you'll probably enjoy A Discovery of Witches. The plot is much more engaging and the writing is far better, but it wasn't without its issues for me.

Here's what I thought about the book:

The Plot

I uncovered essentially two parallel plots throughout this book:

1. A mysterious manuscript, believed to contain the secrets of immortality and the origin of all creatures, is missing. The witch protagonist, Diana, somehow has the power to recover it and all other creatures want her to hand it over.

2. Marriages between creatures are forbidden and Matthew and Diana are fighting to change that for the future of all and create a more tolerant world in which any two creatures who love each other can be together.

The first plot was really interesting and engaging - Diana is a scholar in the history of science and the author does a wonderful job bringing to life historical scientific figures, discoveries, and places.

I loved how real history played a part in the book - we found out that some major historical figures were actually witches/daemons/vampires, which was creative and fun.

The second part of the plot was too much for me. I felt that this book had an underlying agenda to promote same-sex relationships. There are two different same-sex couples and many references to other same-sex encounters. The whole "any two people who love each other should be together" was really pushy and I didn't like feeling preached to about it.

The Writing

As for the actual writing, I liked how Harkness doled out information about the characters. There were several parts that I kind of gasped a little reading. For example, when you find out Marcus is Matthew's son, it's completely unexpected but not at all surprising. And then you find out how vampire lineage works and it's not really a big deal, but it felt very surprising at first.

I loved the descriptions of places and events, of architecture and landscapes, and I really liked how the original setting was a library at Oxford and all the fictional scientific and historical discoveries made throughout the book.

The Characters

I didn't love Diana -- she was smart (which was refreshing) but too many aspects of her character were inconsistent.For example:

* She can use magic sometimes but not always.

* She's ultra-feminist but when Matthew steps in and takes over she's totally okay with his domineering and controlling ways.

* She is super athletic and physically strong, but the least bit of emotional stress totally wipes her out.

As for Matthew -- he's kind of bipolar with a very shady past. He has changed and learned some lessons in his seemingly thousands of years as a vampire, but he still stalks off in fits of rage and kills people. I wasn't completely convinced of his attraction to Diana or his alleged leadership/scare tactic skills.

My favorite character was Ysabeau -- she's strong and can be a little vicious, but also compassionate and motherly. I liked her role in the book and was sad to leave her in France.

The Romance

Having just finished reading a book about Jane Austen's kind of romance, I figured out what it is I don't like about these kinds of emotional fantasy novels.

The romance was a complete whirlwind, with the first meeting and the onset of infatuation seeming only hours apart. It's complete fantasy and I'm tired of it.

The romance started off so hot and heavy, it really had nowhere to go but down. By the end of the book I was left feeling a little blah about it all. I prefer a romance to grow throughout the book and flourish at the very end, leaving you with a sense of happiness and hope for the couple. However, that is not the way of the modern paranormal romance novel, and I get it. I just don't like it.


I would not recommend this book to a friend. Well, maybe I'd recommend the first half, but the pushy same-sex agenda and the inconsistent characters... the more I read the more I wondered why I was still reading.

If you are like me and a little tired of the paranormal romance stories, skip it. If you are a Twilight lover, I'm sure you'll enjoy this book too.