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Time's Convert


Time's Convert

Perhaps the most significant and telling quote from TIME’S CONVERT comes early on and will linger with readers until the end: “One of these days, Marcus MacNeil, you're going to find someone whose authority you can't wriggle out from under.”

Fans of Deborah Harkness' All Souls trilogy (A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, SHADOWS OF NIGHT and THE BOOK OF LIFE) will be thrilled to know she loves that fictional world she has created so much that she revisits it in a big way with the release of TIME'S CONVERT. I continue on my month-long excursion into supernatural fiction just in time for the Halloween season with coverage of this first-rate paranormal thriller. The vampires in Harkness' world are different from, say, those depicted in Anne Rice's Lestat novels. There is less glitz and glamour and more philosophical posturing in these books.

The two principal characters from the trilogy --- Matthew de Clermont (as he's known in this entry) and Diana Bishop ---  are well represented here. Particularly important is the presence of Matthew, who is the one responsible for making Marcus into a vampire. This tale is mostly centered on Marcus' story, and it is quite interesting as it takes us back to the battlefields of the American Revolution. In fact, the book’s opening quote is from American Founding Father Thomas Paine and finishes with the line that provided the impetus for the story’s title: “Time makes more converts than reason.”

"TIME'S CONVERT is a well-written story with characters you cannot help but care about. I am sure this will not be the last time we see these individuals as Harkness has created a nice fictional universe in which to lose yourself."

In present day, Marcus has fallen for a young shop girl in Paris named Phoebe, who becomes aware of what he is and has no issue with it. She actually makes the ultimate show of commitment by agreeing to become a vampire herself. This process of making her one of the undead takes careful handling, and members of Matthew's clan are overseeing it from start to finish. One hardcore rule is that Marcus is not to speak to Phoebe until she has been a vampire for 90 days.

This allows readers not only to experience the turning process for Phoebe, but also to go back in time to enjoy Marcus' backstory and the role he played in the American Revolution. I especially like when Phoebe makes a stand and refuses to feed on the cat that was brought to her for her first “vampire meal.” She defies the word of the ancient female vampires who are overseeing her change, deciding to keep the cat as a pet and name it Persephone.

The backstory for Marcus is one filled with pain. He loves his mother and sister but does not have a great relationship with his father, who rules with an iron fist and brutalizes his family when he's had too much to drink. It is this fact that drives Marcus to sign up with the local militia before he is of legal age as he would rather face the British Army than his own father. Things do get pushed beyond the point of no return, and Marcus ends up killing his father during a family fight. While the family is relieved, Marcus is told by his friends that he must leave his small town of Hadley, Massachusetts, and never come back.

Marcus changes his name while in the war and actually shows some skill as an army medic. He takes on the nickname “Doc” and more than proves his mettle by going above and beyond to save his fellow revolutionaries through his medical skills. At one point, Marcus is working on a soldier named John Proctor. There is more than one literary reference in TIME'S CONVERT, and the Proctor character just has to be a homage to the great Arthur Miller's play “The Crucible,” which was set during the Salem witch trials of 1692-93. I would imagine that this Proctor is a relative of the protagonist from “The Crucible” who does not meet a happy end. Later on in the novel, there is a meeting with a Hansom cab driver named Absalom Jones, an African-American abolitionist and clergyman of historical note.

Marcus comes across Common Sense by Thomas Paine and reads it like it is his own personal bible. It is in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, where Marcus and Matthew first meet. Matthew sees something in Marcus that draws him in. At a pivotal moment, Matthew reveals his true vampire self to Marcus and offers him the gift of immortality. Marcus does not think twice as he considers this to be an opportunity to escape from his personal pain, and sees Matthew as the father figure he’s been seeking. However, as the centuries go by, the bond between the two becomes strained.

TIME'S CONVERT is a well-written story with characters you cannot help but care about. I am sure this will not be the last time we see these individuals as Harkness has created a nice fictional universe in which to lose yourself. I also am looking forward to the miniseries “A Discovery of Witches” coming out in January and featuring Matthew Goode as Matthew de Clermont. Get ready to spend some more time with Deborah Harkness' undead creations!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 19, 2018

Time's Convert
by Deborah Harkness