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The Dog Ear: A good vampire romance for all

By Alyssa McDonagh
On March 31, 2014

Sometimes we all need to read a book strictly for the purpose of being entertained; a book where the plot seems silly but is enticing nonetheless. That is how I found myself buying "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness. The back cover described a tale about vampires and witches in Oxford, England. The vampire and witch part sounded a bit cheesy and reminiscent of the "Twilight" series. However, I have been to Oxford and love fantasy novels so I decided to give this book a chance. I didn't expect to become as engrossed in the plot as I did.
The general premise of "A Discovery of Witches" is the same as "Twilight": a trilogy in which a girl falls in love with a vampire. Diana and Matthew, the adult main characters in "A Discovery of Witches" have the maturity that teenage Bella and Edward in "Twilight" completely lacked. Diana is a much more likable woman. She has an established career as a historian. When she isn't in the library researching, she is outside exercising. She has a life before meeting Matthew and when she does meet him, she doesn't drop everything to follow him around like a puppy. In "Twilight" we never really learn what Bella does with her life besides spend time with Edward. Did she ever have any aspirations? Her personality was very static. The only thing I can think of that she was passionate about (besides Edward) was becoming a vampire.
Matthew and Edward share some characteristics. They are both extremely overprotective but Edward still wins the prize for being protective to the extent of creepily obsessive. Matthew has a legitimate reason for being protective. The plot in "A Discovery of Witches" centers around Diana finding a book in Oxford's Bodleian Library called Ashmole 782. This book contains all the secrets vampires, witches, and daemons, the third type of magical creature in the novel, have been hunting for centuries. Not realizing what she found, Diana returns the book to the library with ensuing negative consequences. Discovering Ashmole 782 causes magical creatures from around the world to antagonize Diana. They are willing to do whatever it takes to get the book. Matthew's protection and vampire powers are therefore needed to ensure her safety.
Besides the greater depth given to the characters in "A Discovery of Witches", I felt that Harkness is a much better writer than Stephanie Meyer. Harkness is extremely creative, implementing history and science into her work. Unlike Edward, who spends his long life attending high school over and over again, Matthew studies hard to become famous geneticist. Harkness' scientific explanations of Matthew's work seem so real and plausible that sometimes I had to remind myself that the book is fictional. "Twilight" was often far-fetched, sometimes to the point of being absurd. Meyers has a fluffier, casual approach to her novels compared to Harkness.
While vampire novels aren't my typical go-to read, "A Discovery of Witches" has the elements I greatly enjoy in books: adventure, suspense, romance, and intelligence. I hope these positive qualities found in Harkness' writing continue throughout the sequels. In my opinion, this is the vampire novel that should have received the popularity "Twilight" did.
 


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