A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

“It begins with absence and desire.
It begins with blood and fear.
It begins with a discovery of witches.”

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 579 pages.
November 15, 2018 to November 29, 2018.

I have committed a crime against books and against readers with my thoughts on this novel. How I came upon reading this book is through a smaller sin but it is the decision I made afterwards which is what makes me truly abominable. I discovered this book after watching the first season of the TV series based on the book trilogy. So my first book crime is that I read the book AFTER watching the TV show. Before I share my guilt about my most atrocious book crime, let’s discuss the book further.

Diana is a witch, though she has spent her whole life denying her heritage and her abilities. All she has ever wanted was to live a normal life and for her to reach her career goals based on her own merit. She left the US to pursue schooling in the UK as soon as she could as to escape the pressure of her aunts, who also raised her. Diana’s parents were both witches too but they were murdered when she was quite young, or so she was told. Diana’s family history and her heritage start to unearth themselves after Diana pulls a unique book out from the library. The book is magically embued and she quickly returns it after feeling its power. Shortly after, creatures of all kinds start to pester Diana. Demons. Witches. And especially vampires. All of who want to get their hands on this book and she doesn’t know why. The book has apparently been missing for centuries and she has been the only one who has been able to recall it.

Diana starts being pursued by a tall, dark and excessively handsome vampire named Matthew, which causes some concern for her friends and family due to the dark history between the two species of creatures. However, something is different about this vampire and Diana doesn’t feel threatened by him, in fact, he seems to want to help her. Diana cautiously enters into his confidence after some of her own kind turn on her and something more than friendship begins to develop between the two of them. Relationships between creatures of different species are forbidden but as the two fall for each other.  Now the congregation of creatures is after them and the book that Diana found. The two of them now must try and unravel the mystery surrounding Diana’s past, her heritage and the book that could be the key to the future of all the creatures.

Sounds like a really great concept right? That’s because it is but I have to admit the idea was not executed as well as I was hoping. The writing goes on tangents and isn’t very organized. This writing style was also confirmed to me when I attempted to read the second book in the series, Shadow of Nightwhich I could not finish as it was a disorganized mess. An editor clearly had a heavier hand in the completion of this novel making it readable and thank goodness, as this concept could have been completely ruined.

Here is where I commit my biggest atrocity and it pains me to say this… but… THE TV SHOW WAS BETTER! There I said it. And when I say better, I mean a lot better. Like infinitely better. The show took this great idea that the author had and polished it up and made it all shiny and awesome. I have no regrets because it’s true. I like the character of Diana more in the TV series as she seems stronger and more independent and the love story that develops between her and Matthew is an intense slow burner that felt realistic and was a pleasure to watch. The Matthew in the books is just too perfect and I found myself rolling my eyes with the romance that developed in the book.

Needless to say, I will not be pursuing the books series further. I will, however, continue to watch the TV series as I anxiously await the return of the second season. If you find the plot of this book intriguing and you want something smart and intelligently done, I would recommend the TV show.  This book wasn’t terrible but it just didn’t compare to the organized and streamlined show that came after it.

 

The Last Threshold by R.A. Salvatore

Oh man, THAT ENDING?! I mean, it can’t be true right? 

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 384 pages.
Read from November 8, 2018 to November 13, 2018.

I think this book was meant to be the last one on Drizzt but as I am clearly behind with the series by a few years so it’s consoling to know that it isn’t, because, oh man, THAT ENDING?! I mean, it can’t be true right?

Drizzt is still travelling with Dahlia and his former arch-enemy Artemis. Drizzt is beginning to distance himself from Dahlia as he can see that there is a bond forming between her and Artemis. He needs to explore his feelings further as his initial jealousy fades away into nothing and he isn’t sure why. Dahlia is still working on dealing with her past and will find herself in a position to redeem herself with her son, Effron. Drizzt is surprised when his companions decide to follow him on his next adventure to Icewind Dale, especially Artemis as he begins to show his true character, but Drizzt will need their assistance when it comes to battling out what Tiago Baenre has in store for him.

1_g-7ncjhvvteoq7tssevvsw
Does else have a fictional crush on Drizzt like I do?

Drizzt makes the revelation we were all hoping that he would come to in this book but definitely not with the ending the Salvatore gave us. Many fans were disappointed with the ending and I can understand why but I personally don’t think it could have ended any other way. Drizzt is too much of badass fighter and a decent person to have it end any other way. I admit, I am disappointed it came from Dahlia, as I wasn’t her biggest fan, but ultimately I agree with Salvatore’s choice of ending. It’s hard to talk about the book without spoiling a bit so here is your warning. Drizzt does ditch Dahlia. This is one thing many fans were happy about, myself included. Dahlia’s character just wasn’t dynamic enough for me and I didn’t feel that she was a worthy partner to Drizzt. However, in terms of rebound relationships, Dahlia was perfect for Drizzt as he learned so much from the time he spent with her and was able to get back to his roots and true self in the end along with new perspectives on his beliefs on righteousness. I secretly hope that Dahlia and Artemis become a thing now they might be good for each other.

It was also this book that made me decide to read The Sellswords series which is a side trilogy that follows the time Artemis and Jarlaxle spend together which I wasn’t initially planning on reading. However, this Neverwinter series alludes so much to that time that I really wanted to know all the additional details. I also found myself really liking Artemis and now I want to know more about his change in character.

Now that this major part of the expansive series is done, I can hardly wait to see where the next book is going to take me. Where will Drizzt be in the next book and who will he be with? Ahhh I can’t wait!

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

“You must live life with the full knowledge that your actions will remain. We are creatures of consequence.”

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 448 pages.
Read from October 12, 2018 to November 6, 2018.

There aren’t many books that manage to be this cohesive and consistently relevant. White Teeth debuted back in the 2000s and not many authors are able to make the literary impact that Zadie Smith did with this novel. For a first time novel, not only is  White Teeth brilliantly written but it also portrays a modern England with multi-ethnicities that span over two generations.

White Teeth begins by following two WWII veterans and friends, Alfred Archibald Jones and Samad Miah Iqbal. These two men, likely never would have been friends had they not met in the war as they come from vastly different backgrounds and ethnicities, boundaries that are not often crossed during post-war England. Both men marry women a generation younger than them. Archibald marries Clara, a beautiful, young, intelligent black woman who just happened to come into his life at a vulnerable time in hers. They have one daughter together, Irie. Samad is married to Alsana, an Indian woman with a sharp tongue who hides under a perceived notion of tradition but is generally “all talk”,  they have two boys together, identical twins, Millat and Magid.

Samad is a traditional man who brought his family over to England from India. He hides the fact that he is a server at his family’s restaurant because he feels the position is below him and often goes out of his way to stoke his ego any chance he can, to hide his own insecurities and personal failures, even at the expense of others. Archibald is an indecisive man that floats through life and is just happy to meet with Samad once a week at their neighbourhood pub. The men’s children are growing up in an England that they don’t recognize, can’t relate to, and are unwilling to move forward with. Millat and Migid relate more to being English than they do to their Indian roots, much to Samad’s fury, while Irie feels lost behind her fro and big hips, despite her intelligence and being the only character with a solid head on her shoulders. This dysfunctional lot each makes their own mistakes as they each traverse through their own identities and generational differences. No one really knows who they should be but they’re all being bombarded with ideals that are ultimately irrelevant.

“…They cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow.”

This book has a bit of slow start as it transitions from generation to generation. Once the children are born into each family the plot takes on a more interesting dynamic. Samad becomes a tragic yet despicable character, in my opinion. He is disrespectful of his wife and will do whatever it takes to prove himself right. He doesn’t care about his son’s wishes or wellbeing, just about what he believes their life should be like and for this, they both suffer.

“They have both lost their way. Strayed so far from what I had intended for them. No doubt they will both marry white women called Sheila and put me in an early grave–acutely displays “the immigrant fears–dissolution, disappearance.”

It’s hard to feel bad for Samad but Archibald too makes his own mistakes with Irie by not being a firm presence in her life. It doesn’t matter to Archibald what becomes of Irie, not because he doesn’t care, but more because he doesn’t put effort into any aspects of his life. As a reader, Irie is the only one you don’t want to pull your hair out over as she seems to be the only one that can see everyone’s issues, including her own. She is the only voice of sanity when everyone is at their breaking points.

I enjoyed most of the book, though I found some bits slow and obviously some of the characters highly unlikeable, however, the writing is moving and a brilliant commentary on race and gender in England. For a debut novel, White Teeth is very good so I can only imagine what else Zadie Smith has brought to the table since then.