95 of 112 people found the following review helpful
Quite possibly the worst book I have ever read,
This review is from: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy 1) (Paperback)
I will try to begin on a positive, and with the one good thing that I was able to take away from the feat of endurance that constituted reading this novel: if this can get published, and onto the NYT Bestsellers List, then if my own career goes belly-up I can always become a novelist, because I surely could do no worse than this. This book is bad, folks. Really astonishingly, befuddlingly, car-crash bad.
Where to begin? On the cover it implies 'if you like Twilight then you'll love this'. Now no-one will pretend that the Twilight series is great literature, but it has been astonishingly successful, because it combines an enjoyable, vampire-filled escapist world with 'teenage girl wish fulfilment'. A Discovery of Witches is presumably attempting to cash in by doing much the same, but trying to substitute 'teenage girl wish fulfilment' for '30-something middle-class woman wish fulfilment'. Which leads onto a 1000 year old supposedly-dangerous, predatory vampire taking the heroine, Diana Bishop, on a date to, er....yoga. With the yoga mat he keeps in his car. Naturally our vampire hero, Matthew, is also a dab hand at horse-riding, speaking romantic French and wine-tasting. Presumably to complete the picture of an ideal vampire lover for a middle class lady he is also a member of a Book Club, but there wasn't enough space to write the meetings in. Menacing, dangerous and unpredictable? I've felt more bloodsucking menace while watching Count Von Count on Sesame Street.
In keeping with the sub-Mills and Boon romance, we are also treated to a paragraph describing what the heroine wears on every single day, irrelevant and uninteresting though this is (it's usually black leggings, fashion fans) and truly cliched attempts at making Diana seem like the average woman, with references to her 'unruly hair' and troublesome relatives.
But the major flaws run deeper than this. This is, after all, supposed to be a bit of escapism - even the author wouldn't claim that it was written with the intention of winning any literary prizes, but one of the secrets of writing a bit of escapism involving vampires, witches and daemons is that your created world must be consistent and seem at least semi-plausible, and here Harkness fails utterly. As the novel goes on more and more concepts are chucked piecemeal at this world, seemingly culled from any popular series going, from Harry Potter to Twilight. We are initially given a world in which humans co-exist with 'creatures' who remain hidden to them, but as we go on, talking ghosts, time travel, talking animals, magic with seemingly no boundaries and living inanimate objects are added to the mix so that the overriding impression is of a world made up by the author as she went along, with no internal consistency or rules whatsoever. Thus, by about 75% of the way through the reader is exasperated and any sense of belief in the world created has vanished. This is not of course helped by the characters, who themselves seem to vary in personality from one chapter to the next, and who are given creaking lines of expositional dialogue that at times actually make the reader laugh out loud with the sheer implausibility of anyone actually saying them. The central romance runs from the characters meeting to becoming lifelong soulmates without much in the way of explaining how this happens. Perhaps Harkness feels she doesn't have to.
And last, because I could write so much more but am losing the will to live, the plot. First, concepts such as 'show don't tell' and 'expounding plot points later rather than immediately' seem entirely alien concepts to Harkness. Every event is elaborated on straight away, no secrets are left for the reader to feel curious about and again the prevailing feel is of a novel written 100% on the hoof, events at the start bearing little relation to events by the conclusion. Perhaps most importantly, there is no sense of this being a stand-alone novel - it is intended to be one of a trilogy, but absolutely no resolution to the 43 chapters of successive almost random-feeling events is achieved by the end. In fact feel free to stop reading at any point, as you will achieve as much resolution as you will at the designated end, and will give yourself free time to do things other than read this appalling drivel. In summary: I regret the time wasted reading this sorry excuse of a book, and would implore anyone who does not actively enjoy masochism to look elsewhere. Anywhere.
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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Feb 2012 19:25:41 GMT
Posted on 29 Feb 2012 21:22:57 GMT
Chantal Lyons says:
One of the funniest reviews I've ever read, I have to say.
Posted on 1 Mar 2012 22:16:10 GMT
Everything I would like to have said .... Only better. Wish I'd read this before purchase..
Posted on 6 Mar 2012 12:15:07 GMT
Great review - I very generously gave this book three stars, largely because I felt it wasn't quite as appalling as "Breaking Dawn", to which I gave just one, but the more I think about it, the more I think that I really should change my rating to two stars...
Thanks for this entertaining review - way more fun than the book!!
Posted on 2 May 2012 19:37:40 BDT
Totally agree with you. Now I'm glad I didn't bother to finish. I was going to speed-read the rest but then the prospect of doing even that much was insufferable. Only wish I'd read your review before I started! I've wasted a week when I could have been reading something else. I read somewhere that this novel caused great excitement at the Frankfurt Book fair. Dieu!
Posted on 16 May 2012 11:08:40 BDT
Total agreement. Just finished the book and it took me MONTHS. Unheard of, I only plodded on because it was a gift from a friend who had loved it.
Posted on 12 Jun 2012 10:29:28 BDT
Very funny review and yes much better than the book. I bought the paperback based on the fact that it was a Sunday Times bestseller ! Astonishing. I thought it was a truly terrible book and I began to think that I had strayed into the Mills and Boon section by mistake. I skipped about half of it to get to the end to see if anything happened - but of course nothing did - except of course Diana having another bath and Matthew speaking dangerously and softly whilst prowling about or something ! Thrown away with great force :)
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2012 14:06:34 BDT
D. C. Folch says:
Thanks for that review! I laughed out loud reading about dangerous and unpredictable Matthew, I couldn't have said it better!
Posted on 16 Nov 2012 18:36:44 GMT
Oh do get over yourselves. There's always a tail wanting to wag the dog, if you crave the fan base you get from writing a revue, why not have a go at writing a book. I enjoyed this book and the one before, they are well written and well researched. I really do not understand why you bought the book if you don't like this sort of fiction, that's masochism children; so is writing an over-long revue about a book that you say you didn't like.
Posted on 10 Feb 2013 13:10:30 GMT
Your review just sums up exactly how I felt about the book. Glad I wasn't the only one who thought it was utter twaddle.