Books Like This: Serpent and Dove, Twilight, The Ex Hex
For People Who Like: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
*WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS
Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
So…. I made the mistake of watching the show before reading the book and (as I’m sure a lot of you can relate to) I severely regret that decision. I mean, no offense to the show creators, but dude. I honestly don’t even know where to start. (To be fair, I only watched the first season and it was a while ago, so, take my words with that in mind) Just to touch on some of the things that annoyed me going from the show to the book 1) they took out all of Matthew’s character in the show. I’m not sure if that was to cater to a specific audience or if they just didn’t have time to put one of the best characters' personalities into the show but it really annoyed me. There was no yoga with Diana, no small smiles vs dazzling smiles, no laughing, no sensitivity, no nothing. His only personality traits were seriousness and possessiveness. 2) They kept out so many details that move the plot along in the show vs the book. I’m going to try not to spoil too much for you, but there is so little background information (in the book too but more so the show) and they watered down the plot so much that the whole plot of the show is just Diana and Matthew against some of the vampires and witches in the Congregation. The book focuses so much more on the relationships and actually watches Matthew and Diana fall in love and try to deal with their secrets and differences. Wow, this went a little bit longer than expected, but I guess I should be surprised. I am literally writing this at 11:00 pm and I like to rant before I go to sleep.
Anyway, I guess I should put this in the introduction…whatever, I’ll do it here instead. The basic setup of the book is that humans, vampires, witches and daemons live in our world and humans have no idea that creatures (vampires, witches and daemons) exist. I actually really like the world building and setup of the book. I like how the author not only gave vampires their physical strength and speed and gave witches their magic. She also gave daemons a kind of crazy creativity that makes sense and makes the story more believable. She also goes in detail in a discussion between Matthew and Diana about the legends surrounding vampires. The whole book has a common theme of humans kind of blatantly ignoring the “otherworldliness” of the creatures. For instance, humans made up that vampires can’t go out into the sunlight because they would get burned due to their strange appearances being harder to ignore in direct sunlight. Anyway, a long long time ago, the creatures decided to make a group that consists of 3 vampires, 3 witches and 3 daemons (The Congregation). Their job was to rule out punishment to creatures who broke the rules: they can’t fall in love with anyone from a different species and they can’t be involved in human politics because of the risk of exposure. Of course, Matthew and Diana break the first rule (sorry, if you didn’t already know that, but I thought the synopsis put it pretty plainly). And, not only that but, Diana accidentally gets a very important book from the library where she researches which is what initially attracts Matthew and other (more malevolent) creatures to her door step.
Now, this book is written so SO well, but there is a lack of diversity among the characters that I found interesting, especially because the characters in the show are much more racially/physically diverse. (I personally choose to implant the characters from the show as the characters from the book in my head.) Also, the author I feel like sometimes goes on historical, alchemical or biological tangents which are a little challenging for me to understand and to not get distracted from. Part of me loves that she does that because not only does it show the work and research she put into this book, it also shows her passion for the subjects and it feels more like we’re in Diana’s head in a way. But, the other part of me kept losing track of what was happening and what the significance of what they were saying was. Especially toward the end when the characters started talking about family trees and genealogy. One other thing that I personally thought was funny when I was reading the book, I’m American so some of the French names and references went right over my head if I didn’t remember them from the show. I kind of remembered names like Ysabeau and Marthe. But, and oh my gosh, I feel so bad for saying this, Gerbert kept going right over my head. I know how they say it in the show, but it was so hard for me to pronounce it that way in my head and I kept accidentally saying it the American way instead (which sounds like a specific baby food producer). I cracked myself up so many times because I would slip up so much. Thank God he wasn’t a major character. Speaking of characters, this might actually need its own section for this review so here we go.
So… I can see how a lot of people wouldn’t like Diana. She’s like a more tolerable Bella Swan sometimes to be honest. And she kind of ignores red flags and it gets chalked up to being a vampire. Which I get and I actually really liked her character. I especially liked her in the beginning when she and Matthew were at the enemies stage of their enemies to lovers romance. She was so independent (and irritating sometimes, especially when it came to her magic) and witty and clever. And it was like one of those things where the lead tries to get closer to the love interest for information and then starts falling for them (sorry to spoil) which I actually don’t mind.
Also, to be honest, I loved Matthew. I mean, I can do without the possessiveness and territoriality sometimes but, I get it and it helps move the plot (romance wise) forward. But I LOVED oh my gosh, I LOVED when they were falling for eachother and he was teaching her about wines and she was teaching him about tea and he took her to his yoga place and just all of the small things like that. And, as I mentioned earlier, the small smiles vs radiant smiles, sensitivity, laughing, amusement etc. were all in the book and I want to reread just thinking about it now. Though, honestly, I’m getting sick of all of the secrets and the ways that they’re revealed. I can’t wait for the days when they are (mostly) honest with each other. For a while there, I didn’t know if they were going to make it because of all of the secrets. Oh, and I forgot to mention Matthew’s old fashion-ness. To compare this with Twilight (as you see mentioned in Review Part 2) Edward is around 108 years old (or something like that, I don’t really remember and I don’t feel like taking a break to google it) and Matthew is a little more than 1500 years old (sorry again for spoilers) if you think that’s something just you wait. Now, Edward was old fashioned enough to not want to BE with Bella until they were married (so romantic btw), dude, Matthew and Diana (SPOILERS) get married and they still aren’t TOGETHER. Dude. DUDE. And honestly ,I prefer what happens instead because it’s so intimate and romantic. But I was literally sitting in bed kicking my sheets because they were SO FRICKIN ADORABLE. Anyway, I just wanted to put that in the open.
Other noteworthy characters are Ysabeau and Marthe who are Matthew’s mother and her housekeeper. I love how their personalities are completely opposites from the outside but they both have big hearts. And I loved watching (SPOILERS) Diana grow on Ysabeau to the point where Diana called Ysabeau when she needed a maternal figure.
Also, the mixing of their families was something I really enjoy in this book. As I mentioned earlier, Diana goes to Ysabeau for support. And, Matthew goes to Sarah (Diana’s aunt and guardian after her parents died) to talk about his stress and pressures. Also, the conventicle was a highlight of the book that I really loved because it was so….interesting to see how far they’ve come from their (mostly) unfounded prejudices to sharing a roof and compromising.
Review Part 2:
I know, I just had to go back to reviewing for part 2. I was reminded so many times of Twilight during this book. This is like a more mature, better plotted Twilight. I’m not going to sit here and compare A Discovery of Witches to Twilight but, believe me, I could. Especially in the show, the similarities are even more obvious because of the pace of Diana and Matthew’s relationship. It was more of the destined to be together trope rather than, I got to know you and I understand why we’re destined to be together trope.
Anyway, I'm gonna go to sleep now, thank you so much for reading this entirely too long review. Thank you Deborah Harkness for writing this amazing book. I wish you luck in all of your future endeavors.