Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Published: February 2011 by: Viking Penguin
Rating: 1.5/5 stars
CW: gore, torture, violence, death of a parent
*this review will contain spoilers because I can't contain my frustration*
Diana Bishop is a descendent of witches, however after being orphaned at a young age, she has tried to distance herself from her magical powers. Instead, Diana turns to scholarship, and she becomes an accomplished professor at Oxford University. When calling up a manuscript as part of her research, Diana learns that the manuscript is bewitched, and there are many magical creatures, including vampires, who want to take the manuscript from her grasp. Diana soon finds herself in the company of Matthew, a charming vampire who is willing to help her protect the manuscript and herself. However, Diana soon realizes that in order to protect herself, she will have to start using her powers again.
I like to describe this book as Twilight for adults. Now, I am not one for book shaming. Twilight is very much a comfort series for me. While the books have obvious problematic elements, I can appreciate them for what they are: entertainment. However, A Discovery of Witches pissed me off more than Twilight ever has. I think it's because it tried to do something intelligent with the paranormal romance genre, and instead it came across as condescending and just plain cringy.
Let's start with the main character, Diana. Now I could very much appreciate that she was a scholar and gained her own independence once her parents died. The problem is, that this all gets thrown out the window once Matthew arrives. When Diana grows closer to Matthew, she seems to lose all sense of street smarts and instead opts to trust Matthew's misogynistic and creepy ways because his eyes are dreamy. She is also an incredibly predictable character, who magically becomes this figure of "The Chosen One," even though she's been out of the practice for so long. How convenient that Diana is suddenly uplifted to be this all-magical being in all of two minutes despite her distaste towards magic? I know we were supposed to root for her, but she contained all of these basic white woman tropes and I was just generally annoyed that her scholarship was watered down once the man came into the picture.
Matthew is Edward Cullen. He is sexist, believes that he needs to control every aspect of a woman's life, and he whispers sweet nothings into Diana's ear, except the sweet nothings are always in French, to make it fancy. He is also rich but blissfully unaware of his own 1000 years of privilege. Side note, but why do vampires always have to be rich? He marries Diana without her consent, and he rarely asks for her opinions on things because he's a super-smart vampire and he can just make all the decisions himself. Am I supposed to like this guy?
Harkness wastes a lot of time describing things that just seem unimportant and a little bit condescending to the average person reading the book. Diana and Matthew drink wine, but it's an expensive wine because they're both super rich and can afford it. Diana and Matthew go to yoga class, because they like to stay in shape and because they're super rich and can afford it. Diana and Matthew go to stay in Matthew's castle, because Matthew is super rich and can afford it. These characters did not seem relatable to me at all and I'm over having to like characters that just have it all.
Now, I still rated this book 1.5 stars, because believe it or not, there was one thing about this book that I liked! Diana is a history professor who is especially intrigued by alchemy. So, the book does go a bit into the history of alchemy which I found to be interesting, and it did send me into a rabbit hole of googling to learn more, which was a good thing. However, this did not fully redeem the book for me, obviously.
Overall, I would not recommend this book. I think if you want to read a comforting paranormal romance, then read more diverse novels that explore more complex themes than what wine Diana and Matthew are going to drink with dinner in a castle.
Have you read A Discovery of Witches? What did you think?
Emily @ Paperback Princess