A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches
Deborah Harkness
Reviewed by Claire Maxwell
Headline
Thu, 29/09/2011
9780755374045
£7.99

I admit, I approached A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness hesitantly: I am not a big fantasy reader and the thought of witches and demons sends me all aquiver. 

But I did begin and I was pleasantly surprised on the outset. Harkness’ writing is approachable for all - fans or otherwise of the genre, or, in fact, reading at all. It flows off the page, observantly setting the scene.

Diana is a historian who opens a bewitched manuscript in Oxford's Bodleian Library, attracting to her fantastical creatures not least Matthew, a vampire and a geneticist with an enthusiasm for Darwin.

For a fantasy tale the characters and settings are surprisingly mundane and human. My first criticism is that, although I appreciate a relatable story, the mundane nature of the prose could be perceived as boring. It is slow, at best. At 688 pages, much of the extensive description could be omitted leaving the plot to flourish.

However once the character of Matthew appears the story does get going. The main plot pulls you in, leaving you entranced by the world on the pages in front of you. Harkness portrays this world vividly and effectively.

However, for me the overly descriptive nature of every aspect of the book leaves the reader exhausted by the time they reach any real substance, leaving them unable to appreciate the (truly enchanting) story of Diana and Matthew. With a slightly sharper edit, this could be a wonderful story.
 

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