Customer Reviews: A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy, Book 1)
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on March 2, 2012
I really really wanted to like this book. I just didn't. The first half I thought it could still get interesting, it did not. It moved so slowly and was unnecessarily vague and confusing. I really wanted to like the main characters Diana and Matthew, there was just not much I liked. Diana was a bit too much of a know it all, and stubborn just for the sake of being stubborn, because for some reason that is what contemporary writers think make a strong female character. I am quite frankly sick of this, you don't have to be obnoxious to be a strong woman. Matthew was just boring. Their relationship was boring. There was way too much detail about meals eaten, and clothing being picked out. I don't need to know that Diana's leggings are holey because she is just to "intelligent" to give a damn about her appearance. Once again this another personality trait that writers think make a strong liberated woman. Being unconcerned with your appearance does not make you a strong woman, it just makes you a woman in faded holey leggings with messy hair. The story was choppy, and the important details were left out to describe the wine vintages that the vampire likes to drink, instead of wrapping up what the big deal with manuscript was. WHY IS THE VAMPIRE CONSUMING ANYTHING BESIDES BLOOD?!?!? When push came to shove, I just didn't care if Diana and Matthew worked it out or not. I didn't care if the Congregation came to get them, and I didn't care if Diana learned how to use her magic. What she doesn't care the first 3/4 of the book now all of a sudden she is embracing her whitchiness? It would have been much more interesting if she had always wanted to use her magic and had never been successful and now all of a sudden it was miss firing. But her stubborn denial of what she is was just annoying. I just wanted to be done with it by the end....and then when I did get to the end, my response was really? Nothing was wrapped was just left hanging there so there can be a squeal which I will not be reading because I truly don't care what happens.
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on February 8, 2011
Have you ever really (you know what I mean by really, not a peck) been kissed or touched by a person just in out of the freezing cold? It's not very pleasant. I never understood the romantic attraction to frigid vampires until now. Harkness, with her own authorial magic, made me believe that if I were a hot-blooded witch, the coolness of the undead's touch would feel welcome. Here there is more than the standard vampire romance based on the primal attraction of predator/prey. Harkness's witch Diana is a worthy partner for powerful vampire Matthew Clairmont.

I just adored this novel. It has everything you want in a good read: terrific characters; a fast-moving plot filled with the world of academia, science, and the supernatural; and a singular world to explore. There are lots of details for the reader who wants even more, like hidden "Easter egg" references to other novels/characters; lots of descriptions of wine and tea and food that made me seriously hungry; and equally well-developed secondary characters.

The only trouble is, when you reach the end you will throw the book across the room and yell because the sequel is not already in your hot little hands. So then you'll be forced to read it again.
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on February 27, 2011
This was a sum of so many mainstream occult movies/books spanning over 15 years rolled into a weak 600 page blathering of nothing. I had some glimmer of hope when I read the free preview that this might be interesting, however it chose to prove me most wrong. This is living proof that any story that has a two or more occult themes entwined in its pages can be published regardless if there is no definitive plot, no action, no romance, excessive mundane details or bland and static characters. In this book Harry Potter is a girl, who like Sandra Bullock in practical magic doesn't want to use magic because "it killed her parents", who like hermoine likes to read ancient things to try and pretend she's doing science, bumps into and falls instantly in love with a very old and very old fashion hybrid of a wealthy Edward and wolfy Jacob (blood sucker with pack like mentality and wolf like diet, with french inclination to drink the vineyards dry). She discovers she has the ability to be "godlike and more powerful than any witch ever" (no doubt being a fictional vicarious life of a closeted witch who teaches history, writes bad romance novels and secretly wishes she was special). Because of this the evil creature tribunal is dead set on destroying there cross breeding relationship because they might god forbid have children! Blah, blah, blah.

This is not a romance novel. Even twilight had a sexual/sensual moments. The vampire in this book marries her in two weeks, but doesn't intend to consummate the marriage until she reaches menopause, because after 1500 years he's still not ready for children. I never felt any spark of passion between them and her so called love for him felt more like a teenage crush with a older guy that parents warn their daughters about, but they never listen. It's not even historical fiction. Making references to famous historical names and the "origin of species" does not a scientific approach to life and the occult make. This book is like a Randy Newman song. It's a play by play of the most mundane details of life. She eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps...searches for tea, eats, sleeps.

Then the book ends and you realize that after 600 pages there is no conclusion. This book belonged on the shelves of bad new age fiction. I may not get my life back...but at least I'll get my 20 bucks back.
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on February 27, 2011
This book started out as engaging and interesting but went downhill fast. I got the impression that the author had decent bones of a story around a intelligent repressed witch, but the editors decided a Forbidden Love With Vampire theme would be more profitable. Huge disappointment in the end where it clearly sets up a book 2 rather than having an actual conclusion (you can do both, you know). I honestly felt cheated at the end. Harry Potter meets Twilight meets Outlander, but in the worst exploitative sense.
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on May 16, 2011
This was one of the worst books I've read in a long time and feel duped by the author and publishers. First let me say, this is not a novel to be even remotely compared to the masterfully told tales of Harry Potter. The book was reviewed on NPR and summed up as a "Harry Potter for grown ups." As a result, I thought the book would be cleverly written with a unique take on witches and magic. Instead, this book turned out to be a novel mostly about a brooding vampire (the hero) and an incredibly silly witch (the heroine). This book is nothing more than a romance novel and a poorly constructed one at that. The first few chapters were interesting and full of promise when the book actually seemed to be about a witch who does not use her magic. The heroine, Diana, had spunk, she was charming (excuse the pun), and intelligent. Matthew, the vampire, had an interesting story to tell also, at first. Once they fell in love, the author wrote the character of Matthew as way too over the top in his protectiveness of Diana. Page after page he's telling her to eat, sleep, drink, rest, lie down, take a bath, rest, sleep, eat some more, drink. He even carries her around the way one would carry a toy poodle. She's remarkably weak and tired ALL THE TIME. Diana practices a spell and then all of sudden, she's weak and shaky, needing Matthew to carry her to bed so that she can sleep for the rest of the day. This book takes way too long to get to the point, the author describes every minute detail of the scenery, what Diana is eating, what Diana is wearing, the smells. Jeesh. Every page seemed to have some detail about the scent of Diana or Matthew's cinnamon and cloves scent. The creepiest descriptions were of the witch and vampire kisses. Her warm lips up against his cold lips. Gross. Let me finally add that after the first half or so of the book, the author seems to forget the original idea and goes in a few other directions. I know this is a book about magic but it becomes unrealistic when we learn that Diana possesses all the truly enviable magical gifts and that her 1500 year old boyfriend/vampire was best friends with nearly every great political figure, scientist, pope, etc. If he'd been born earlier I'm sure Jesus Christ would have been a close personal friend. I could go on and on about this boring, pretentious book but I'll stop here. Needless to say, I don't recommend it to anyone.
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on April 18, 2011
How in God's name can the Amazon staff review call this a "one-sitting read?" I can barely get through a single chapter in one sitting, let a lone the entire book. I am currently 200 pages into the nearly 600-page behemoth and I am not sure if I will ever be able to finish it. I am not sure I even care. I am no stranger to ridiculously long, verbose books (I am quite the Tolkien and Anne Rice afficionado), but very long + very boring does not a good book make.

All of the other negative reviews on here have said it much better than I have - in short this is a boring, plodding, un-interesting brick. The plot has definite potential but the fact that I'm a third of the way through and pretty much nothing has happened is not very encouraging. The characters are flat, uninteresting and totally un-engaging. Why the hell would I want to read about people who are perfect in every way and have everything they could ever possibly want? If that's what I was interested in I'd just go read internet fan fiction. There is zero conflict and drama in the book. Others aren't lying when they say it's literally the "heroine" reading, doing yoga, drinking tea, rowing, running and staring longingly into her (rich, perfect, genius) hero's eyes. I have gotten this far into only because I paid for the damned thing and the consumer (and the English major) in me are somehow trying to prod me into seeing this thing through to the end. Unfortunately, I look forward to another chapter in this book the way I would look forward to a root canal.

Sad to say, this book is more or less "Twilight" for grown-ups. The fact that it is being compared to Anne Rice is beyond silly. If I was Anne Rice that would be insulting. Rice may be able to spend ten pages describing a door knob but there is a definite purpose to her narrative, not to mention all the stimulating philosophical and ethical discourse along the way. At least those books made you think, even when not much of anything was happening plot-wise. Most of Rice's characters might have been impossibly beautiful, but they had personality flaws aplenty, enough to at least make me be able to identify a little more with them, lowly imperfect non-Oxford educated human than I am.

Please, I implore you, save yourself the money, or at least take it out of your library for free. I am going to try and finish it on the off chance it might redeem itself, but based on what I've read so far and what others have said, I am not having high hopes for it.
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on June 30, 2012
I'm not sure I've ever read a book as popular as this one with more problems. I wouldn't even have come close to finishing it except for the whole accident / rubber-necking phenomenon. It was THAT bad. And so bad, that if I let myself, I could write a 50 page essay on its stupidities. I'll refrain (although it's hard) and force myself down to three disaster areas that are small examples of the mess this book is.

First - I realized with this sentence (on the opening page) that I was going to have problems with the writing: `The thin gold rim of his glasses sparkled in the dim light provided by the old bronze reading lamp that was attached to a shelf.' Can a sentence get clunkier than that?

And yet the opening set-up was decent. One of the world's brightest historians stumbles upon an odd 300 year old manuscript in an Oxford library. She's a witch who loathes witchcraft and the book (magically) cries out to her to open it. She doesn't. She sends it back to the stacks, not wanting anything to do with it. But thereafter, daemons and witches begin stalking her. A vampire corners her in the library to question her about the book. We have the start of a plot.

Except we don't.

In fact, there is no plot. There is no black moment, no climax, no connection at all to the three-act play. Our heroine and hero (the vampire of course) wander around with things happening, occasionally they are even relevant, but often they are not. THREE PAGES were spent on a yoga class. The heroine drinks massive amount of tea and wine. She jogs. They go for walks. They talk (and talk and talk and talk, but never about anything interesting). Then towards the end, a group of nine vamps, daemons, and witches get together (I never did understand why), and what do they do to stay busy? Play scrabble!!!!! (You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.)

I have never read a book where so much space was wasted doing really stupid, boring things.

Which brings me to my second area of complaint: Credibility. The author touches on some interesting subjects: DNA, History (the love interest Vamp was good friends with pretty much every famous artist, scientist, and politician in history), ancient manuscripts, even a touch of religion. But...

On page 237 the heroine and vampire decide to go horseback riding (see point #1). He asks the heroine if she can ride. She responds: "I grew up in the country and have ridden since I was a child - dressage, jumping, everything."

Now considering dressage and jumping are like first cousins when it comes to horses, I'm not sure where the `everything' comes in. But I could forgive that. On page 240 (the couple is still getting ready for their ride three pages later), the vamp gives her an expensive gift of riding boots. The heroine's comment: "I'd never shown horses and had limited resources, so I had never owned a proper pair of riding boot (before)." WTF? So she can't afford boots, but she can afford lessons to learn dressage? Because riding a neighbor's pasture-pet isn't going to teach you dressage. Dressage is a discipline. Lessons run $200 - $500 a month. If she couldn't afford boots (and you can get cheap (but still proper) boots for under $150.00) how did she afford dressage lessons?

And it gets worse... They go for their ride. The heroine describes her riding: "My calf pressed into her (the horse's) flank, just behind the stirrup and she broke into a canter." Okay... So for her calf to press into the flank, the saddle must be sitting on the wrong part of the horse's body? Because a horses flank is where the horses butt connects to the torso - in the back part of the horse. It would be hard for her calf to even reach the flank without cranking her leg up underneath herself and moving so she is sitting behind the saddle rather than on it.

And while all this is humorous to me because I like horses, what it really does is point out the research / authenticity problems that run throughout the story. It's VERY easy to find horse people on the internet, and anyone who rides would catch these problems. If the author got so much wrong about horses (which are easy to research and there were plenty of other non-horsey examples of this kind of stuff), I can only imagine how she mangled the science and history, etc.

Third - The relationship between the heroine and the vampire started out fun. He was creepy and alien, she was wary. But then they fell in love. And apart from the fact that the entire relationship arc is a copy of Twilight ("<strike>Bella,</strike> Diana, I'm feeling very protective of you. But I want to drink your blood at the same time." "<strike>Edward,</strike> Matthew, I'm not afraid. Why don't you come lay next to me in my bed and watch me sleep?" (Except as they were in their thirties, they were naked - no sex though for some reason.)).

Diana is supposed to be one of the most brilliant historians in modern history and the youngest person to ever get tenure at Yale (she's in her early 30s), but every character in this book treats her like a five-year-old. Matthew (the vamp) is constantly feeding her (human food) and putting her down for naps (you think I'm kidding about the naps, but I'm not. I've never read a book about a heroine who was so tired all the time, but couldn't realize it without someone telling her.). She isn't allowed to make any decisions herself, and he keeps secrets from her because he's worried she won't be able to handle the stress. And his mother (another vamp) gives Diana a bath.

When something dramatic does happen, Diana gets dizzy. She faints. Or she rushes headlong into the trouble because she's brave (throughout the entire book, the word `brave' seems to have been swapped out anywhere the word `stupid' would have worked better). Matthew tells anyone who will listen how stubborn and amazing and `brave' she is, but then he sets up boundaries of where she's allowed to walk, who she may speak to, and when she needs to go to bed. It's so awful, it's hilarious.

Matthew is the leading world scientist in DNA studies, origin of the species, Norwegian wolves, (and one more thing, I can't remember). He's also the head of a huge secret warrior guild and 1500 years old. But when an actual even occurs that requires 'thinking' his mother calls for his brother to come make all the decisions. When Matthew has girl problems, he calls his best gay-friend and they spend three days at a hunting lodge talking about their feelings (I kid you not). He never seems to get any of the story clues, but he's really good at growling in the back of his throat anytime anyone looks at Diana. In terms of age, I'd put him at about 16.

(Side note: IMO, the only writers who managed to do a good job of portraying what someone who lived 150 - 2000 years would really be like are Anne Rice and Robin McKinley.)

I could go on and on. There's still the awful dialogue. The random events that happen just when they are most convenient for the characters. The dire warnings about what will happen if Diana and Matthew go visit (fill in the blank over and over again), but then when they do it, the vamp (usually it was a vamp), turns out to be mild tempered and their new best friend. The fact that the manuscript mentioned in the beginning spends the rest of the book being mentioned in passing, but having no real relevance to the plot (or lack of plot, I should say). I'm going to stop now or I never will.

My recommendation? Only get this book if you're looking for a satire-that-isn't or can't resist a really good train wreck.
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on March 2, 2011
I thought this book was a book of lost potential. It COULD have been the adult version of the Twilight saga. Yet, it was repetitive, at times boring/annoying, and full of cliches.

#1: If you've read Twilight, do you know how Bella is very mopey and stubborn, refusing to get out of the way of danger, putting numerous people/creatures in danger by doing so, and then lamenting what a selfish person she is...before she does it again 100 pages later? Yeah. That's the main character in this book, Diana. She's a witch, btw.

#2: If you've read Twilight, do you know how Edward is very stoic and secretive, torturing himself for loving a girl he wishes to eat, yet tormenting himself by constantly placing himself in positions where he must fight his animalistic impulses...before he does it again 100 pages later? Yeah. That's the other main character in this book, Matthew.

#3: Matthew seems to have conveniently over his 1000+ years of living ended up best buds with the greatest thinkers, scientists and astronomers in world history (Think the diminutive Will...for William Shakespeare). While this might have been funny one time, it is used SEVERAL times over. It's corny. Also, Matthew, like the vampires in Twilight, has accumulated an incredible amount of education and wealth, and therefore owns chateaus and sports cars.

#4: There were LOOOOONG scenes of tortured abstinence (Twilight-esque...again)where I literally flipped 15 pages before getting to the next scene. This was not a one-time deal. There were quite a few conversations or scenes that dragged on far too long to hold your attention.

#5: VERY REPETITIVE. For the entire book , there are about 3 climactic scenes. Between, the other hundreds of pages are flirtation and angst between the two lovers, and a very butchered, manipulated history of alchemy. Most of the abstinence plot line stems from the fact that witches and vampires are not supposed to love each other, a key driver in the plot. There are also pages and pages of Diana taking a bath (not erotically. just the author wants you to know she bathes, apparently) and sleeping, eating and taking another bath, sleeping and eating. Over and over. With dialogue.

#6: The explanation of witch powers and history, and science tied into the plot make this book everything that it is, and that's not much. These provide the only components of the book that make it distinctive from the very many other books of this genre to come about on the tail of Twilight.

Overall, it's an indulgent, easy read. It won't challenge you (it's not meant to, but it probably won't really entertain either), and when you're done, the only reason you'll want more is because the book stops at the oddest place known to book endings. Maybe there is another book coming, but if not, the ending is ridiculously unsatisfying. Basically, the way the plot runs, and with the foreshadowing, a big show down is expected that never materializes.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. With some better editing and more creative writing, it could have been a good thing.Too bad you can'tn do do-overs in publishing.
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on February 25, 2011
When I read the initial descriptions of this book, I was very excited at the promise of a historical and academic treatment of supernatural beings. The notion of a witch historian with a vampire who has experienced that history was at first intriguing. However, any semblance of logic in this book quickly falls apart. Ms. (could it be Dr., even?) Harkness would do well to sit down with her science colleagues for a basic lesson, as she gets even the most elementary biology, chemistry, and physics disturbingly wrong. In fact, the "science" she presents is so disastrously incorrect, I found myself slapping my forehead in dismay. Since the book relies so heavily on those arguments, it's a massive flaw. Apart from that, the main characters never fully break away from stereotypes and cliches (and yes, I withstood this thing all the way through). The sophomoric writing could be forgiven if the plot were better, but parts of it read like excerpts from a 13-year-old "Twilight" fan's diary ("his eyes twinkled like dark stars" and other such nonsense). The romance between the main characters feels entirely forced and is so unnaturally shoved to the forefront as to distract from potentially more interesting plot points. In short, bad logic, bad storytelling, bad prose, and a serious disappointment.
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on May 17, 2011
Two major issues with this book -

-- Where is the ending?
There was no indication anywhere that this was merely the first book in a series. I trod through 600 plus pages of endless tea/wine drinking, panic attacks, vampire adoration and even entire chapters where she does nothing but sleep - only to discover this book literally HAS NO ENDING. So yes, you are expected to wait until the NEXT book to find out what happens. If anything. As if I would actually spend money on a sequel after being setup like this.

-- Where is the magic?
She was born with nearly every witchy power there is - you name it, she has it (and DNA test to prove it!) Sooo....This is a book about the most powerful witch OF ALL TIME -- and has virtually NO MAGIC. Except the tiny occasions when some other witch does it. Or she freaks out and does it by mistake, then feels guilty. I kept thinking pretty soon, it's getting toward the end here, she's going to do some real magic. I mean, it IS a book about witches, right? And I can't tell you how many times I read over and over and over about all the awesome RARE powers she has. Any time now. Oh wait! There was something! She got panicked and shot an arrow of witchfire. Surely it's going to start happening now. Surely? Please? Nope.

I suppose, technically, I need to be fair and say the Title is 'A Discovery of Witches' - and well, yeah, you do discover she's a witch. Who likes tea. But that's about it. In short, save your money. Don't get fooled by the marketing hype that surrounds this book.
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