📚 A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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All Souls #1

Description⎮Reviewed Apr. 2017

Narrators: Jennifer Ikeda
Length: 24h 2m
Publisher: Penguin Audio⎮2011

4★ AudiobookA Discovery of Witches turned out to be more like A Discovery of Witches and Vampires. If I had known that beforehand, I probably would have been more hesitant about starting this series, which is partially why I feel slighted by Deborah Harkness. Make no mistake, the other reviews likening this story to Twilight aren’t being dramatic. The Witch-Vampire romance threatened to overtake the storyline several times and nearly ruined my experience with A Discovery of Witches.

The thing that really ticks me off about this story is that it had so much going for it. Harkness wove a masterful tale, incorporating elements of history, religion, mythology and science. Though longwinded, the pacing was almost perfect and the action was gripping. It’s those things, along with the expert narration, that make A Discovery of Witches deserve four stars. Assuming you can bear the nauseating romance, that is.

And I do mean nauseating. Just thinking about Matthew Clairmont leaves a bad taste in my mouth. His and Diana’s (the protagonist) romance was beyond creepy, but when is vampire romance not? Matthew was an awful character and he definitely brought out the worst in Diana. The terrible development of the romance made A Discovery of Witches seem like a tale of two different stories. The first half of the book is remarkably more interesting than the second half, with the tipping point being Harkness’ heating up of the romance plot.

Alone, Diana was bearable, even pleasant. I loved hearing about her family history. In my opinion, The Bishop House was the most interesting character in the entire story and it was a house. I also loved the ghosts that inhabit the house. They made my late-night listening sessions extremely spooky and Halloween-esque, which is nice in the middle of April.

Despite absolutely loathing the romance, the plot of A Discovery of Witches was intriguing enough to make me put up with it. Harkness’ writing was methodical and detail-oriented, making the major plot points well-developed, even if the romance wasn’t. I quickly discovered that this was the perfect audiobook for late-night and even middle-of-the-night listening. Something about listening in the dark put my senses on edge, making the story even more enjoyable than it was during the daylight.

It got a little long towards the end and I think A Discovery of Witches could have easily been cut into two installments. Twilight comparisons aside, A Discovery of Witches reminded me more of the Immortal Descendants series. The presence of a vampire boyfriend was my chief complaint with that series too, but Immortal Descendants boasts a much more likable protagonist (who doesn’t lose her spunk upon hooking up with said vampire).

These two books also share the inclusion of time travel into the plot and I’m curious to see how Harkness will approach it. I tend to enjoy science fiction-based time travel more than fantasy-based, so my expectations aren’t very high in that regard. I’m also not expecting Matthew to suddenly become less “knight in shining armor” or Diana to suddenly recover her spine, so I’m not sure how soon I’ll be reaching for the next installment. Hopefully, time will help me forget some of the story’s cringe worthy moments and focus on the parts I managed to enjoy.

Narration review: Jennifer Ikeda deserves a freaking medal for helping me through this. Her narration was easily one of the highest points in this listening experience. Each time I hear Ikeda, she moves up higher on my list of favorite narrators. The multitude of characters in A Discovery of Witches really gave Jennifer the chance to showcase her characterization abilities. Her accents were spot on and fit each character perfectly. Important: If you are considering giving A Discovery of Witches a try, do yourself a favor and pick up the audiobook. The story will be long either way, but at least you’ll have Jennifer Ikeda’s masterful narration to guide you through it. I doubt I would have made it through the story without her. ♣︎

$ Available at Audiobooks.comAudible/Amazon, and The Book Depository

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