Book Review: A Discovery of Boredom (Witches, Sorry)

A Discovery of Boredom | MyLeftOne BlogI finally got through my skimming of Deborah Harkness’ “A Discovery of Witches”. Yes, just a skimming. It’s unreadable.

You may have heard of it. While not exactly Harry Potter, it is among the phalanx of fantasy stories that inevitably must follow such a popular phenomenon.

And by not exactly Harry Potter, I mean that it combines the limp romanticism of Twilight with the ponderous introspection of The Hunger Games to create a book in which nothing at all happens, but the details of every scene are richly described and thought about, even though they hardly change from chapter to chapter.

In truth, I did fully read it through chapter 14, then started skimming to find a part where something actually happens, but wound up reaching the end.

The long and the short of the story is that there’s a mysterious book (sorry, a manuscript). The main character, Diana Bishop, is a witch of ancient lineage who bears great untapped power, which she uses to find the book (manuscript), thus awakening a horde of other witches and vampires (and daemons, zany uncontrollable types, basically the Jim Carreys of the occult world) who all want the thing.

What does the book (manuscript) do? Don’t know. What do the antagonists want with it? Don’t know. What will they do to get it? No idea. What does Diana do to defend it? Nothing.

No, really, nothing. The story begins when she takes it out of the Oxford library and sends it back (avoiding the overdue fee). If she simply leaves it there, roll credits.

Remember in Harry Potter, where pretty much immediately you learn what the sought-for object is, what it does, who wants it, and why that’s bad? In “Discovery” there’s none of this. The bad guys’ main threat is that they might bore Diana to death.

Oh, and it’s written mostly in the first-person, like Hunger Games, so you get to share Diana’s every self-absorbed thought. At least her musings are somewhat interesting, unlike those of the incredibly jaded teen Katniss Everdeen as she sleepwalks through her drab grey world.

Another plus: the vampires are way more compelling than Twilight’s shallow troupe of sparkling stuckups.

They’re making a film from this thing, and I’ll warn you; it’s gonna need a drinking game.

  • One, whenever Diana puts on another frumpy sweater and faded yoga pants, drink.
  • Whenever she’s sitting around reading dusty history texts, take two sips.
  • Whenever they drink a wine that costs more than a few Ben Franklins (and predates old Ben himself), swish and swallow.
  • Whenever Diana describes how other characters smell, drink; if it sounds like something Martha Stewart keeps in her cupboards, drink twice.
  • Whenever Matthew, the main vampire, is obnoxiously chauvinist, drain the glass.

(You’re gonna need a taxicab)

So anyway, you’re probably thinking I should quit reading my wife’s books. But it’s too much fun to rip them apart, despite being well outside the target demo. Look for my review on Harkness’ “Shadow of Night” after I skim the table of contents.


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