The quote below is the point where I seriously started considering putting this book down without finishing it. After 300 pages of a 500 page book, I find myself looking at the table of contents and wondering how much longer this could drag on – and it’s not because of the writing style. The problem, in a word, is this: love.
This novel starts out with a strong female character faced with a difficult serious of problems, all of them centered on accepting that a) she is a witch with considerable power, and b) her parents were brutally murdered. In was something of a cross between Harry Potter and a highly intellectual V I Warshawski – and I was thoroughly enjoying it.
Then the vampire enters and the ‘forbidden love affair’ subplot takes center stage…for several hundred pages. Or, at least, that’s how it feels to me – I did not verify the page count.
I don’t inherently hate all love affair subplots. This one is special. Why? Because it almost perfectly mimics a highly abusive relationship between an obsessively (violently) controlling man and woman who keeps justifying every bad decision made by herself and/or her lover with the words “I love you” or “you love me” or “I don’t care what happens, we are in loooooove….”
According to this novel, love is defined as falling off the edge of the cliff while swooning over an imagined idealism based on a feeling generated by episodes of violence, intimidation, fear, a few ‘save me’ scenes and one or two shared meals that occur over the course of two or three weeks.
If this were a character’s fatal flaw, and if the novel treated the subplot in that manner, while getting back to the main story….when are we going to get back to the main story?…then I would be more inclined to push through it, but this bodice-ripper with an undead stalker has taken over the story and destroyed what was originally an excellent plot.
If I sound both frustrated and angry it’s because I am – this idea that a woman can change a man through ‘love’ has been lingering in our literature, movies, media and society for entirely to long. The damage done to untold numbers of women who went off to ‘fix’ their very own ‘leader of the pack’ is reason enough for change – the damage done to the children of these unfortunate match-ups provides ample reason for rage.
I like strong female characters who make their own decisions, the world be damned. Turning that strength of mind into a ‘stand by your man’ romance novel makes me angry enough to write a blog posting like this one. It also destroys all the fun in reading what was an enormously promising novel. Maybe the subplot ends and the real story starts up again later in the novel, but I have lost my patience and want…need…to get back to some form of fun reading during my breaks and the public transit commute between work and home.
Therefore, as much as I hate to say it, I am giving up on this book.
“Decide how you feel about me – not because of what the covenant forbids, or the Congregation wants, or even what Peter Knox and Domeninco Michele makes you afraid of…”
–A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness
(C) Adora Myers 2014