A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

Nine times out of ten, a book is better than its movie or television adaptation. No matter how talented the filmmaker, the literary medium—which has no need to worry about production schedules or actors' salaries—is usually best. That isn't always true, however, and Deborah Harkness's novel A Discovery of Witches is a prime example.

Harkness's heroine is Diana Bishop, a nerdy, driven college professor and hereditary witch. While researching her latest book, Diana stumbles across an enchanted manuscript in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Diana has spent years resisting the use of her powers, but the book's appearance brings her to the attention of the entire supernatural underworld, including brooding vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.

A Discovery of Witches has the bones of an excellent genre romance, but those bones are buried underneath a pile of pointless details, throwaway characters, and approximately one million brain-deadening pages of the characters talking about wine or tea. I suspect Harkness included these things in an effort to be “literary”, but her editors did her a disservice. Every paragraph devoted to a non-essential character (or, Lord knows, a beverage) should have been cut and replaced with a scene that enhanced the connection between the novel's protagonists and/or increased the story's sense of suspense. Happily, this is where the upcoming TV series should be an improvement: charismatic actors will lend the characters some sorely-needed chemistry, scriptwriters will trim the fat, and competent directors will create a sense of pace. Harkness has given us the gift of her imagination, but her story is the perfect candidate for a ruthless slice-and-dice by a showrunner with a budget.
Posted by: Julianka


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