Here’s a vampire tale to sink your teeth into
"Time's Convert" by Deborah Harkness (Viking, 446 pages, in stores)
“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.