A book review that is also a plea for mercy


Writing a book (I wrote a book,  you might have heard something about it?)  has made me very sensitive to criticizing other writers. Because it’s hard, and it takes guts to expose yourself to the entire world.

But, by God, I cannot allow the praise of Discovery of Witches to go on. I cannot allow any more innocents to fall prey to this book.

I read this book a couple of months ago and I’ve been trying not to write this review because, like Vogon poetry, this book is not something I want to subject you to.

Reading Discovery of Witches is like feminism never existed.  Reading Discovery of Witches is like someone browsed all the current hot teen paranormal romance books at Barnes and Noble and smushed them together in a blender.  Reading Discovery of Witches is like being in a room with a really pretentious Princeton professor who loves to hear himself talk.  Reading Discovery of Witches is like one of those leg rashes you get sometimes in the summer if you’re allergic to maybe poison ivy or pollen and you know you shouldn’t scratch it because it’s bad but then you do scratch it and it’s terrible but then it’s really great. But then your leg swells like a balloon.  Reading Discovery of Witches is like rain on your wedding day.

If you love life and reasonable literature, you will love to hate this book.  Let me spare you reading it and recap it for you, with spoilers.

Diana is super-crazy smart.  That’s why she’s a tenured professor at Oxford and is only in her early thirties.  She also runs five miles a day, rows on the Thames when she’s not running, does yoga, and lives alone in one of the colleges at Oxford.  She is named to symbolize the Hunter Goddess. She constantly tucks her beautiful hair behind her ear.  You immediately hate her.
You hate her because she’s too smart for American colleges, because no one could ever possibly exercise this much in real life, and because she describes every cup of tea she’s drinking almost in real-time. You love British tea. But you hate Diana talking about British tea. My God, you think to yourself, is this what I sound like on Twitter?   In fact, you hate Diana talking about anything.  You imagine that if you ever had to have tea with Diana in real life, you’d probably kill her.
Which is what everyone in the book tries to do. Unfortunately, without luck.  But there are TWO MORE BOOKS, so one can only hope.
Oh, there’s one more thing.  Diana is a witch. And she has super-magical witch powers. But she won’t use them because she was scarred in her childhood by her parents’ death. I personally think that since she runs so much she just jiggled all the magic off.
So there’s Diana, going on in her life as a super-schmancy professor-researcher, CONSTANTLY talking about the Bodleian until it irritates you to read that word again, drinking tea, and being boring.
Then, we meet Matthew.  What is there to say about Matthew, except that he’s tall, dark, handsome, drives a Jag, does yoga, and has an Oxford accent.  Except that he’s French. So his real name is Mathieu. Because right.   Also, he’s a vampire.  And he is SUPER interested in Diana. Because if you’re French and have eternal life and a metric shitton of money (enough to buy three apartments, a boat, and, of course, a mansion in France), the one thing you want most in your everlasting life is a gangly, obnoxious American girl.
Oh, did I also mention that there are demons in the book? Basically, anyone that is super-creative and tourtured by their talent is a demon.  So, artists, scientists, philosophers, the like.  I am picturing the author of this book putting in a demon cameo for herself into the next one.  Backpat, backpat.
So here we have demons, witches, and vampires, three mythical beings about which nothing has ever been written in the history of time.   That’s the setup.
So the beginning of the book is about how Diana calls a manuscript by accident, by magic, that may or may not contain the history of the three races, but she sends it back by accident because nothing in her Oxford-whatever education has prepared her for the fact that she’s a moron.  That’s when all the creatures start becoming interested in her and Matthew starts protecting her by watching her sleep and smelling her without her permission.
Oh, surprise! After two weeks of yoga (I am not making this up), they decide they’re in love.  Then a whole war-type situation ensues because witches and vampires can’t get married, Diana still can’t use any of her magical powers, Mathieu takes her to see his other vampire family in France. What’s interesting is that Diana, who was all up about feminism and all that boring stuff, agrees to take leave for a month and go live with Mathieu, his creepy vampire mother, and his vampire grandmother who only speaks Gaulic Gaelic sight unseen.
In France,  a whole bunch of other stuff goes down as it tends to, resulting in war clouds looming between the three mythical races.  And then they go to Massachussetts to stay with Diana’s aunts, who, except for a Scottish demon named Hamish that I am 150% disappointed the author did not write more about, are the sanest people in this book.
Throughout all of this, Diana  cries a lot about her parents who died OVER FIFTEEN years ago and spends hours soaking in medieval bathtubs.  Life is hard.
You know what’s harder?  Actually reading the book.  Here are some choice quotes:
Somewhere in the center of my soul, a rusty chain began to unwind. It freed itself, link by link, from where it had rested, unobserved, waiting for him. My hands, which had been balled up and pressed against his chest, unfurled with it. The chain continued to drop, to an unfathomable depth where there was nothing but darkness and Matthew. At last it snapped to its full length, anchoring me to a vampire. Despite the manuscript, despite the fact that my hands contained enough voltage to run a microwave, and despite the photograph, as long as I was connected to him, I was safe.
Be yourself– Matthew Clairmont. Complete with your sharp vampire teeth and your scary mother, your test tubes full of blood and your DNA, your infuriating bossiness and your maddening sense of smell.
So, after the crying, the hugging, the snobby academic references, the gloomy protectiveness, and six hundred pages of Mathieu calling Diana his “brave lionness”  (GAG) even though she doesn’t do a single brave thing in the book, it’s done.
And finally you’re at the end and you survived.  Oh, right, then Matthew drinks Diana’s blood.  Fun stuff, tally-ho (as they would say at the Bodleian). And then the fun REALLY begins.
So basically, do not read this book. Unless you are hate-reading it.
Of course, I’ll be hate-reading the sequel that comes out in June.