Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review - Discovery of Witches

I wanted to like this book. I really did. Unfortunately slogging through this one was a chore. If it wasn't the book of the month for my book club, I wouldn't have bothered finishing. Where to begin? 

What I liked about the book. 

The author clearly knows her history. 
The author is obviously well versed in scientific history and it shows through in her work. 
The writing itself is well done. 
The story and pacing started to pick up a lot at the end. 
The parts that had nothing to do with the romance were at times extremely intriguing. 

What I didn't like about the book. 

The parallels between this book and a certain other book were too similar. It seemed almost derivative because of those similarities. 
Female lead: You're handsome 
Male lead: Your scent drives me insane. 
Female lead: I want to be with you. 
Male lead: I'm dangerous. I could hurt you. 
Female lead: But I love you Edward Matthew. 
Male lead: I love you too. Now everyone must risk their lives and put everything in jeopardy because of our extra-special love. 
Female lead: I might have the first vampire baby. 

Honestly, although some of the plot devices differed, and the story was much better written, too much of it was similar for my tastes. 

Oh, and did I forget to mention that every single historical figure in history was a supernatural "creature". Part of the allure of the great figures, is they were human, just like us. By removing their humanity, the author is saying that you aren't going to amount to a hill of beans, because obviously if you're great, you must be supernatural. 

The two main characters, BellaDiana and EdwardMatthew were just awful. With Diana, I started out liking her in the beginning and by the end, I just couldn't bring myself to care. First of all, the characters are too perfect. 

You have Diana, who obviously is going to be the most powerful witch in the universe. She's fit, she's athletic, she's a scholar. Everyone (including herself) keeps saying how brave and independent she is, and by the end of the book, she's just doing whatever Matthew says. For all the talk of feminism, all the decision making ends up being made by the men. 

Matthew, the 1500 year old vampire is even worse. Naturally he has the body of Adonis. He's strong and brave and protective. He has multiple doctorates. In fact, he is a doctor, in the MD sense. He's a huge wine connoisseur, a great cook, has multiple estates all over the world. He's French. He's a fellow at Oxford (and honestly all the Oxford-worship got a little old as well). He runs a genetics lab. Has his own private jet. And helicopters. Everyone fears and worships him. He is The Most Interesting Man in the World. (with apologies to Dos Equis) 

And of course, despite having an empire to run, science to research, etc., he has to devote all his time to giving Diana foot massages, taking her to yoga, and generally making sure she gets fed and tucked into bed. (No, I'm not kidding.) 

I keep wondering if the author realizes that not only does an audience not relate to perfect characters, perfect characters are never well liked. Something high school should have taught her, as it did for the rest of us. 

And of course one of my favorite quotes, "I've seen courage like yours before - from women, mostly... Men don't have it... It's merely bravado." Seriously? A man said that? And are we really taking gender relations back to the "I'm better than you" stage? This was one of the many places I had to put the book down and just step away. (Along with all the cringe-worthy Twilight similarities.) 

Pacing left a lot to be desired. At nearly 800 pages, I thought Justin Cronin could have trimmed a good 100-150 pages. At nearly 600 pages, I thought this book needed about 200 pages trimmed. The first 150 pages were just excruciating. It started out fine, and then 150 pages of rowing, what I'm wearing, what I'm eating, yoga, look at manuscripts that aren't pertaining to the story, "My, isn't Matthew dreamy?". Rinse and repeat. The book did finally pick up at the end though. 

Despite my dislike of it, I'm sure that this book will sell a billion copies. It's really too bad. The plot devices of the witches and especially alchemy were really quite fascinating, and could have lent to a very original story, instead of just another (albeit well-written) me-too. 

I'd give it a (very generous) 2 stars out of 5.

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