Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
*audio checked out from my local library*
Regina’s Rating: 2 Stars/C
There is a lot about this book I enjoyed and (initially) liked. The literature, historical and mythological references. The attempt to incorporate science and theories of evolution in a supernatural tale. The settings all over the world; the setting in libraries and discussions of ancient texts. The lead character is a strong woman, athletic and independent. All very positive right? Even as I write this, I think about the setting of the university and so wish that I had loved this book. I want a book that has all of these elements, but doesn’t unravel for me.
Now for the unpleasant part. Tthere was so much about the book that derailed it for me from these little jewels. I feel bad in not liking this book as I know so many people love it. Okay first, this book is too long for the story being told. It should have been edited down and shortened. The descriptions of food, scent and appearances of people are just too detailed and drag on endlessly. The descriptions of clothes and in getting ready to go places really do not add anything to the story, in my opinion. I hated how the author described Diana’s (the lead’s) hair and eye color. I don’t understand how a person’s eyes can contain all colors or a person’s hair contain all colors. I likely could have ended up liking this story if it hadn’t employed one of my most hated themes.
The Daddy knows best theme. Or maybe I should call it the Edward-knows best theme. I really really really hate when male characters treat the heroine like she is a child – telling her what she needs to eat, when she needs to eat, when she should sleep, insisting on naps (blocking her exit from rooms because he believes she is too tired, warning her that an activity will be cut short if he sees her looking tired) and deciding for her what behavior is safe or not. I don’t find this level of control endearing or sweet, I think it is obnoxious. My father didn’t even do this to me when I was a teenager and I do not think there is anything romantic about a love interest doing this. It just is not romantic nor is it sexy. The story was literally derailed by all the — you need to eat now honey or you need to sleep now or that horse is not safe for you to ride. No doubt about it, if I was the heroine in this story (clearly not the case) I would have been running away and fast.
I love historical rooted stories and stories about ancient secrets and I love stories set at universities. But I really get tired of stories where the hero knew all the famous people ever and only studied at the top most elite schools. Granted, a vampire that has lived 1500 years isn’t realistic so why should I expect a more common life for him? I just get tired of this trope. There are more universities in the world outside of Harvard and Oxford, plenty of good researchers and professors work at these and it would be just as interesting to have a story set at a different school. The same could be said for an ancient being, how likely is it that he knew every single famous scholar – Machievelli, Darwin, Newton, etc.? What about the common people, what about all of the other people in history whose tales didn’t survive to be retold?
I know I am getting too serious for the type of book this was, but it just missed the mark for me. It is sad that it ultimately let me down, because the first 25% started off so strongly and I was hopeful that I would end up loving this book. I won’t be reading the sequel. I do see where this book would appeal to other readers, it just wasn’t for me.
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