Here’s a vam­pire tale to sink your teeth into

"Time's Con­vert" by Deb­o­rah Hark­ness (Vik­ing, 446 pages, in stores)

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - BOOKS - — By Mar­cie Ever­hart, for The Ok­la­homan

“Time’s Con­vert,” a new ad­junct to Deb­o­rah Hark­ness’ All Souls tril­ogy, is an un­usu­ally sat­is­fy­ing in­tel­lec­tual treat for a para­nor­mal fan­tasy. This witch­esand-vam­pires story is in­tel­li­gent, eru­dite, grand and filled with the thrilling magic of as­ton­ish­ing his­tor­i­cal ac­cu­racy.

The cen­tral char­ac­ter is Mar­cus, vam­pire-son of se­ries star Matthew. The brainy ti­tle is from “time makes more con­verts than rea­son” found in the in­tro to Thomas Paine’s fa­mous trea­tise “Com­mon Sense,” which sowed the seeds for Amer­i­can in­de­pen­dence. As a mor­tal, Mar­cus is an Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion­ary sol­dier and sur­geon who car­ries a copy of the beloved work on his per­son through­out the book.

Three story lines twine through­out. The cur­rent-day con­ver­sion of Mar­cus’s fi­ancé to vam­piress, which forces a 90-day sep­a­ra­tion of the cou­ple, is con­trasted with the past con­ver­sion of Mar­cus, at the end of the colo­nial war. While sep­a­rated, Mar­cus stays with the man who “made” him and his wife, vam­pire Matthew and witch Di­ana. They are forg­ing new com­i­cal ter­ri­tory as the par­ents of twins, who are part­vam­pire and part-witch.

Matthew and Di­ana help Mar­cus come to terms with his past and its plague of bad mem­o­ries so he can move for­ward into the fu­ture with his mate. Ap­par­ently, it can take years to ad­just to im­mor­tal­ity.

Hark­ness has rare skill in weav­ing sto­ries with in­tri­cate lay­ers of sym­bolic mean­ing.

Us­ing mag­i­cal witches and im­mor­tal vam­pires as char­ac­ters is sim­ply a mech­a­nism for Hark­ness, a his­tory pro­fes­sor at Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, to in­ject liv­ing, breath­ing, glo­ri­ous his­tory into her fic­tion.

Char­ac­ters in­ter­act with real his­tor­i­cal fig­ures such as Paine, the Mar­quis de Lafayette, Jean-Paul Marat, Ben Franklin, Dr. Bodo Otto (se­nior sur­geon of the Con­ti­nen­tal Army for whom Mar­cus worked) and Dr. Joseph-Ig­nace Guil­lotin (the anti-cap­i­tal-pun­ish­ment doc­tor for whom the guil­lo­tine is named).

This lit­er­ary de­vice pro­vides a dra­matic glimpse into our real past and its own in­deli­ble char­ac­ters. I teared up when Mar­cus ob­serves at the side of Paine’s tragic deathbed, “Where would any of us be with­out Tom?” How true.

Bonus his­tor­i­cal good­ies at the be­gin­ning of chap­ters in­clude spell­ing lists from 1762’s The New Eng­land Primer, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s writ­ten or­der to in­oc­u­late ev­ery sol­dier for small pox lest he have no army to fight for in­de­pen­dence, pe­riod news­pa­per ar­ti­cles and clas­si­fied ads, and re­cov­ered pri­vate let­ters. Embed­ded in­side the ac­tion are de­scrip­tions of bat­tle­field tac­tics used to ad­dress the 20-count load­ing time of a mus­ket and med­i­cal pro­ce­dures of the day.

Hark­ness fans have been wait­ing with bated breath for four years for this con­tin­u­a­tion novel set in the All Souls world. It’s a con­sid­er­able plea­sure to fi­nally sink teeth into the story of how vam­pire Mar­cus came to be, merged with the his­tory of how our coun­try came to be.

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