Friday, January 31, 2014

Book review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I know I've not been blogging, either here or on Topaz Mommy. Sorry, dear readers! That's because I've been reading fiction again. I haven't read fiction since... I don't remember! Before the kids came along, my nose was always buried in a book. Always always always. Reading was still possible with my first son but when the second one came along, it's become near impossible to put books before boys!

Then I read this article right before New Year's Eve: Brain function boosted for days after reading a novel. And my first thought was, "So that's why I'm becoming stupid! I don't read anymore!" Take note that the improvement in brain function came with reading novels, not non-fiction, not self-help, not news articles, not magazines, not blogs (hehe so, sorry, my blogs aren't helping you guys at all!). So for 2014, I resolved to read novels again. One novel a month. My first novel for the year is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It's the first book of her All Souls Trilogy.

I have had this book for a year now but the first few chapters are so slow that I kept giving up on it. The only reason I took it up again was because I remembered the reason I bought it: It was praised by critics. Plus, my friends loved it. So, dubious though I was, I plunged into it again. As with previous attempts, I fell asleep after a few pages haha! The heroine, a witch named Diana Bishop, is a scholar, you see, so a great chunk of the first act of the book is spent in—wait for it—a library. Now, I love libraries. Spent a lot of time in them when I was growing up actually. So I know that not much action happens in libraries. Well, except that in this library, Diana meets a vampire and all hell breaks lose... a hundred or so pages after!

I'm glad I plodded through those early chapters. Once the action starts (falling in love, dangers posed to the couple, traveling around the world, etc!), the pace picks up and I had a difficult time putting down the book.
Took me three weeks to finish this! I usually don't take that long to read one book!

1. I love how Diana and Matthew fell in love. It's in the space of a few weeks and I had no trouble falling in love with their love. It was completely believable to me, mostly because their love started with their lengthy conversations over tea and wine, talking about science, history, yoga, wine, architecture—all of their interests. They connected with their minds first. That's the best way to fall in love!

2. I like the intelligence of the book. I don't know if I mentioned this anywhere on this blog but I love history. Everyone thinks English was my favorite subject in school. It's actually History, and that was what I wanted to take in college. So anyway, I love how historical figures are woven into the stories of vampires and witches. It totally makes sense that magical creatures would occupy important positions in society.

1. The pace. Did I mention it was sooooo sloooow at the start? Yes, I think I did. It's the fault of all those aforementioned lengthy conversations over tea. So, while I dislike the pace, I see its necessity.

2. I am so over the story featuring a clumsy, not gorgeous girl meeting a spectacularly good-looking, powerful, rich man. He brings out all her insecurities because he's just so darn perfect, and confuses the girl because he's so hot for her simple, boring self. Then when they finally fall in love, we see the guy has a vulnerable side. It's the plot of so many books—Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, all the romance novels from Mills & Boon, et al. I also roll my eyes when the girl is always fainting, being carried around in the guy's strong arms, so weak and needing protection and rescue. That just really needs to go away!

I can't find a copy of Shadow of Night, the second book in the All Souls Trilogy. I was hoping that would be my novel assignment for February.

Anyway, have you read A Discovery of Witches? How'd you like it? Please tell me in the comments! I'm hoping to do a book club thing on this blog. If I find a copy of Shadow of Night by next week, let's make that our book for February!

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  1. I'm a working mom of 1 and I stopped reading FICTION for almost a year after giving birth because I always choose catching sleep over reading my books. But yeah, I became dull after that. Hahaha. What I will do this year is widen my book choices. I always pick works of authors I've already read so I will be daring this year. Hehe.

    I would love the idea of a book club thing :)

  2. I had the same comment - took me months get through the first few chapters but yes, i could not put it down after! Plunged immediately into Shadow of Night right after (got it from the Kindle store). It's a page turner but I felt like I had to stop every so often to digest the latest plot twist - you're right, it is an intelligent book. More so in the second installment. I started reading it after rave reviews from my friends - they called it "Twilight" for adults, minus sparkly vampires, hehehe. What I failed to research was that it is a trilogy. I hate starting an unfinished series because I hate having to wait for the next book!

    Last year, Deborah Harkness said in an interview that the third book has no set release date yet because the creative process takes time and she cannot schedule her inspiration. Disappointing but makes perfect sense - she has to live up to the high standard she set for the first 2 books.

    Try "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova. It's another very intelligent novel (a little heavy and slow in the first part as well). You'll really think about it even after you've stopped for the day. :-)


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