Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Discovery of Witches

Harkness, Deborah E. A Discovery of Witches. New York: Viking, 2011.

 Basically, it's Twilight for grown-ups. In fact, it's a vast improvement over Twilight (although it suffers from a similar gawk-at-the-hot-vampire vibe). It has an intricate, involving plot, and many of the characters engage the reader and defy expectations -- a witch-hating vampire, for example, proves motherly to our witch heroine. I have several quibbles. For a novel that purports to be the beginning of a war among witches, vampires and daemons, "Discovery" doesn't have a lot of action. Also, her pacing is off -- Harkness has a strangely even prose style (the majority of the book is a first-person account by the heroine) that doesn't heat up when our hero, Diana, is being tortured, and attacks seem to pop out of nowhere. There is a deus-ex-machina with a real deus. And I was hoping for more historical detail about alchemy. But this novel, albeit nearly 600 pages, reads very quickly, and because it's obviously the first in the series (the second promises a lot more alchemy, and Christopher Marlowe), I'm cutting it a lot of slack. And in fact I enjoyed it. It falls both in the urban fantasy and mysterious tome genres. I actually liked the heroine quite a bit (she's a lot smarter than Bella and learns to take care of herself pretty quickly, once she learns the secret to her magic). And Harnkess deploys occasional humor. The book probably will appeal more to women, however (a vampire AND a doctor!).

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