A Discovery of Nonsense (sorry, Witches, sorry)
****SPOILERS, SO MANY SPOILERS. AND SWEARS. LOADS AND LOADS OF SWEARS***
What an utterly ridiculous book this is.
Firstly, a background as to why I read a paranormal romance book during the week before Christmas; the cover. We bought it for work because I’d seen it *everywhere*, the cover looked really pretty, and I just got a bit excited about it. Then I come home and my sister eyes it up (and may I remind you this is the sister who slept in Team Jacob sheets for years) and says possibly the wisest thing that’s ever come out of her mouth. “That’s not a real blurb, is it?”.
And that’s when I should have known! Because if a book is any good, if it has a decent story arch or thematic device or some sort of brilliant character holding the whole thing together it has a shitting blurb. This DOESN’T. It has what is later revealed to be a QUOTE from the book, and three incomplete sentences that would have my GCSE English teacher reaching for her big red pen. I KNOW this. I CATALOGED this nonsense, for fuck’s sake! I had to make the abstract up! When will I bloody learn!
It’s also really thick, like 700 pages thick, and I read a really thick book last Christmas and figured, sure, that’ll keep me going over the Seasonal Festive Time. But noooooooo. Because it’s bollocks. Great big fat, dialogue heavy bollocks.
Think the worst parts of Laurell K Hamilton (including the phrase ‘training shoes completed the outfit’ which made me just howl with laughter), combined with the crappyness of Twishite combined with The Historian. Then take out The Historian and beat yourself soundly for even beginning to compare by what is in comparison a masterpiece of modern fiction with this tripe.
And what pisses me off so much is how much I enjoyed it! Seriously, I know I’m going to do my usual rip-to-shreds now, but I had proper good fun reading this book!
A good first third of it is set in a library, The Bodleian Library for good measure. Diana is this scholar researching the history of alchemy calling up ancient manuscripts in one of the most respected and beautiful libraries in the world. This is relevant to my interests, yes. Then on the third page, half way down it turns out she’s a witch. And the book doesn’t start with some big reveal, she just drops that in there real subtle like, oh it made me tingle. I was absolutely hooked, proper loving it, excited about the mysteries of the manuscript, about a heroine who was mature and therefore relate-able, about the prospect of a bit of romance later as promised to me by the non-blurb on the gorgeous cover.
And then we meet Matthew.
Matthew is the hero, and a vampire. Though he’s not just a vampire, he’s a Manpire. Manpires are like regular vampires but their machismo is just SO GINORMOUS that they have to have is shoved roughly down the reader’s throats. Edward is not a Manpire, Jean Claude might be a little bit. But there is no bigger Manpire than Matthew.
I fucking hate Matthew. He’s a bellend. A patronising, selfish, big-headed, difficult, Heathclifftion cosy jumpered bellend. As anyone who saw my utter utter rage on Twitter the other night will testify to-I don’t like bellends. Especially ones who get away with it.
Diana, who starts off well, suddenly turns into this utter wimp like emopausal bintette, falls in love with Matthew after knowing his for a week and not sleeping with him (but more of that later). The word ‘irrevocably’ isn’t used, Thank Christ (every time I see that word in YA all I can think of is Inigo going ‘I do not think it means what you think it means’), but you get the general idea.
And of course he falls in love with her, showing this love by stalking her, watching her sleep, taking her to yoga to a place where he knows she’ll feel uncomfortable and not really letting her walk any where without his clutching her to his Massive Manpire Chest. Honest to God Diana spends the majority of time she is with Matthew either under his arm, or in his arms, or with him nuzzling her in some totally inappropriate manor infront of at least one of their relatives. Including his mother, Ysabeau, who could be a Strong Independent Woman character but turns out to be a pathetic as the rest of them proclaiming her beloved twatty son to be the head of the family and therefore some kind of Great God despite being an incredibly powerful and resourceful vampire herself.
Anyway, Diana calls up this manuscript and for some reason, which never actually gets fully explained, vampires and witches (who all descend from the same women who got deaded at Salem but are still run by a MAN) and daemons, who are genetic bloopers descended from actual humans as opposed to an inherited creature like witches, or created like vampires, all want at this manuscript, but, oh no, it’s disappeared, and Diana is nearly killed a couple of times and massively threatened loads and so Matthew must clasp her to his Manly Manpire chest AGAIN and cart her off TO FRANCE where she will be safe, with his mother.
Loads of shit happens, most of which I can’t remember, but this book would massively appeal to people who like books with lots of MINUTE DETAIL in it because that really is all it is. It’s not well written in the slightest, but I could tell you every single thing about the world she’s created because everything is so minutely explained. Oh and Diana brushes her hair a lot. And likes tea. See, I remember that. Couldn’t tell you the plot, but I remember the important bits.
Parts of the book are fascinating, and the best written parts are the bit that Harkness knows well; scholarly works and history and science. I loved the idea of the Knights of Lazarus and all that went with that, it just didn’t need the sloppy shit that went with it. The library, the university and all that world was so well realised and the ‘creatures’ all made sense and were a brilliant and well executed part of the book.
But Matthew is by far the star of the show. I’ve Goodreads it (this is the sort of book you have to, just for the comedy gold it brings up) and one reader said they were into him because they would welcome ‘the challenge of loving him’. Now I know as someone who has been single since 2008 I’m not the biggest expert in this whole relationship thang but I always thought a challenge was something like climbing a mountain, or running a marathon, or getting a Masters or something. Not, you know, loving someone. What would be the point of that. ‘Oh but for the brief few hours he clasps me to his Manly Chest it’s worth the years of emotional pain and torment and self-sacrifice.’ Yeah, course it is…
Here is my list of Massively Douchey Things That Matthew Does
I only started taking notes from about page 289, so there may be many, many more utterly shit things Matthew does that made me want to punch the book in the face, but these are my particular favourites.
1) They are going riding. Diana is a competent and practiced horse rider, and she examines the horse, puts the relevant horse riding equipment on the horse, and talks about how much she knows what she is doing with the horse. Matthew then still lifts her up and puts her on the horse.
“‘Will you never wit until I help you?’ he growled into my ear.
‘I can get on a horse myself’ I said hotly.
‘But you don’t need to.’ Matthew’s hands….” etc etc ad naseum.
See, you don’t need to do anything strenuous anymore now you have Big Strong Manpire to carry you. GAAAAAAAAAAH.
And this is what modern women aspire to meet. The world has failed somewhere, I swear down.
2) Diana is trapped down what is basically a fuck off hole in a castle, except it’s got some bollocksy scholarly name in French. She is visited by the ghosts of her mother and father who tell her the stories they told her as a child to encourage her to ‘stay strong’ (the worst phrase in the English language) also known as waiting for the Big String Manpire to come and rescue her. (You know that bit in Kill Bill Vol. 2 where Una is buried alive and she gets herself out using her fingertips? That). Anyway, so Diana, having been dragged about a bit and tortured in a way that I couldn’t really imagine the description being as banal and un-involved as the descriptions of her making a cup of tea, or having water pouring out of her cheeks (they’re called similes and metaphors, they’re really cool, you should learn how to fucking use them) and she starts being told about how her prince will come and rescue her (GAAAAAAAH ONE INCH PUNCH MATE, ONE INCH PUNCH) and she thinks
“Why would anyone want to be with a useless witch”.
THIS is my main problem; Diana has such ridiculously low self esteem that she can’t believe that someone as mannish and handsome and wordly etc etc etc as Twatthew would want to be with someone like her. But instead of the book being Diana turning around and thinking “I’m awesome” all you get is Diana having her face cupped in his manly hands as he strokes her bottom lip and tells her “you’re awesome to me”. Great. Nice one, Twatthew, way to make a woman constantly dependent on you as her one source of approval. That’s not massively psychologically abusive/manipulative AT ALL NOW IS IT???? Grrrrrr twat.
3) Diana is always, always referred to as “Matthew’s”. Matthew says she is “mine!” like a spoilt two year old on his first day in nursery too many times for it to just be a one-time drunken “get in my bed, woman, mine” thing, which is the ONLY time claiming ownership is acceptable and must immediately be followed by an apology the next day. You can’t own a person, that’s illegal. AND DIANA ACCEPTS THIS. When she is ‘marked’ as his by having his crest burnt into her back, she is more worried that some harm will come to her precious Mafffou than angry that she has basically been branded like a slave.
4) The line that made me throw the book at the wall…
” Matthew took my hands in his, ‘That’s enough bravery for one day, ma lionne’.”
Might as well have patted her on the fucking head. Twat.
5) Oh, and then a whole PAGE later, when Diana magically discovers she has another in a seemingly limitless list of plot-enhancing powers, he tells her she isn’t going to use it in the same way you’d tell of a child who’s just discovered swearing. AND SHE ACCEPTS THIS.
6) Oh shit, turns out, despite never having sex because Matthew has decided that Diana doesn’t have body autonomy and instead should just let him finger her occasionally on demand, they could have babies. Diana tells him she shall take some magic contraceptive tea. Matthew tells her ‘You’ll do a damn sight more than that’. He NEVER offers to take precautions himself, he TELLS her what she will do with her own body and then PRESUMES that it will be her fault anyway if they do get pregnant because she is so much ‘stronger’ than him.
And the sex thing? The sex thing really pissed me off. ‘We have all the time in the world’ (so?), ‘We don’t have to rush’ (it’s not like it’s making a fucking pastry, mate, it’s just sex), ‘I want to get to know you’re body'(and learn how to control it). I think @prototypecube, who was good enough to hear out my twitter rant put it best. “Hey bellend I want a good fu* bellend crams shushy finger onto her lips* “sssh my sweet, we do not need to rush, rest now”. This perfect 140chars sums up the entirety of Diana and Matthew’s relationship, and to be honest most of the plot.
There is a term from what Matthew does to Diana throughout the book; gaslighting. If this was my mate I’d have her out of this relationship a long time ago. Only, wait a minute, this entire book covers A MONTH OF THEIR LIVES???? THEY MAKE ALL THESE DECISIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE ENTIRE SHITTING WORLD IN A MONTH??? SHE TAKES 688 PAGES TO COVER A MONTH???? GONE WITH THE WIND COVERED FIFTEEN YEARS IN THAT TIME!!!!
A LOT happens in the book, but to be honest I was so fixated with anger on how much of a massive bellend Matthew was I kind of forgot how much I enjoyed the rest of it. It’s very every silly, and things magically happen to move the plot along so much it’s like she was making it up as she went along. And you know what the worst thing is? I can’t wait to read the next one…
Honest to God, this is how they get you…