A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness Let's just say that the only thing saving this book from a 1 star review from me is my tendency to round up when I give half stars, because this would probably be a 1.5 from me. I don't recall the last time I felt so annoyed over reading a novel, but towards the end of this book I had lost all desire to continue and the only thing motivating me to finish was the idea of writing this review and venting my frustrations.

The novel started off well enough. Diana Bishop, the main character and narrator, stumbles upon a mysterious manuscript at the Bodleian Library at Oxford. I was instantly intrigued and wanted to know more about where this ancient book came from and how it would play into the rest of the story. It got me fired up and ready for a paranormal mystery/thriller. Then in walks Matthew Clairmont, vampire and love interest, and the novel switches track. At this point, the book becomes a full-blown paranormal romance -- which is fine, I might add; I don't tend to read paranormal romances, but I have nothing against the genre and I'm flexible enough to enjoy reading just about anything as long as it's got a good story. All I ask is that the author choose a path and stick to it.

My brain, however, was just thoroughly yanked in too many directions while reading this book. Like I said, after preparing myself for a good mystery, I had to quickly switch gears and get into the mood for a paranormal romance instead. But just as quickly, the book introduces other mystery elements, such as the unexplained circumstances of Diana's parents deaths when she was a child, as well as the brutal vampire-related murders in the news. After grabbing the reader, however, both these points were hardly developed.

At times I wanted to yell at this book and tell it to make up its mind; it suffers from having way too many ideas and plot lines crammed within its pages. The paranormal mystery/thriller fan will likely be bored to tears by the lack of story progress as the novel trudges through the relationship between Diana and Matthew. Likewise, the paranormal romance fan will probably feel bogged down by the pages and pages of Dan Brown-esque history and science background information injected haphazardly into the story. And both camps are going to be frustrated by the long stretches in this novel where the characters do absolutely nothing of importance, except take long aimless walks, drink copious amounts of tea and wine, or do yoga.

As for the characters, I admit I failed to connect with either Diana or Matthew, both of whom I found very bland. Diana, a young independent scholar, had the potential to be a very interesting heroine, but seemingly devolves before my eyes the moment Matthew comes into the picture. For all the talk she spouts about being brave and being able to take care of herself, she has the backbone of a plate of jello. It was also a very sad moment when I recognized her for the Mary Sue she is -- traits like being brilliant beyond belief and achieving tenure at Yale in her 30s, as well as potentially being the most powerful witch that ever lived by possessing every single magical ability.

And don't even get me started about Matthew. Listen, I'm all for chivalry. I love a strong, confident man you can depend on to love you and care for you. However, I also recognize a problem when a character like Matthew is constantly doing things like a) ordering/snapping/growling at Diana and everyone around him to do exactly as he says, b) spying/stalking Diana and keeping secrets from her, c) not allowing Diana to go anywhere without his permission, resorting to steering her by the small of her back/grabbing her elbow/throwing her over his shoulder when she refuses to listen, and d) flying off the handle whenever he doesn't get his way. The list goes on and on.

Look, there's a huge difference between when a man is being caring and when he is being controlling. Guess which category Matthew falls into. What a turn off. I have to say I grew out of that "I *heart* bad boys" phase even before I hit high school, and certainly nothing about Matthew sets my heart a-flutter. There's also a myriad little things that bug me about him -- the fact he's supposed to be this scary brooding vampire, but he does yoga (nothing wrong with a man who does yoga, but it doesn't help the image that the author's obviously trying for) and here and there he's also described as being "shy". Like Diana, Matthew's character is also way too idealized for my tastes. For one, he seems to have been acquainted with every single famous person in history that ever lived. Oh, and he can also tell by smell when Diana will have her next period. That's just creepy.

And speaking of history, I guess some of what's talked about in the book is interesting. I can't say the same for the "science", though. Granted, my educational background in biology wasn't focused on DNA or genetics, but even a basic understanding of those topics had me giggling incredulously in my chair as I read the author's take on chromosomes and genome mapping to explain the differences between human and creatures, and witches' powers. So like, there would be a gene for controlling elements. A gene for flying. A gene for timewalking/time traveling. And so on. Like, what is this, the X-Men? Don't get me wrong, I love the X-Men, but the comics never marketed themselves as "intellectual" reading.

Still, I think what disappoints me most is the fact that this could have been a very good book. I confess, it's probably a big part of why I was so frustrated, given how the novel's synopsis pulled me in right away as well as the hype surrounding this title. Like I said, there are some great ideas in here, which in my opinion just weren't handled properly. The novel would probably have benefited greatly from a more rigorous editing process; maybe the focus could have been tightened up, ideas spread out more over the series, and the length of the book cut down, etc.

Despite all the that I've written here, I can't say for certain right now I won't pick up the next book in the trilogy when it comes out. I don't give up on series very easily, and like to give things another chance whenever I can. Also, there are admittedly many mysterious elements that this first installment introduced that I would love to see answered or continued, not to mention the infuriating cliffhanger the author left us with. Still, it'll probably be low priority on my to-read list.