Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness – REVIEW
Set in contemporary Paris and London, and the American colonies during the upheaval and unrest that exploded into the Revolutionary War, a sweeping story that braids together the past and present.
On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life, free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply-held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.
Fast forward to contemporary London, where Marcus has fallen for Phoebe Taylor, a young employee at Sotheby’s. She decides to become a vampire, too, and though the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable in the modern world than they were in the 18th century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both – forever.
A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities for change, Time’s Convert will delight fans of the All Souls trilogy and all readers of magic, the supernatural, and romance.
“Your time has not yet come … Until it does, go home where you belong, Marcus MacNeil. Be ready. When your future beckons, you’ll know it.”
After the first proof copy went missing, Headline publishers were kind enough to send me a replacement of this stunning book. The story focuses on Marcus and Phoebe following her decision to become a vampire, alternating between memories of Marcus’s tangled past, Phoebe’s rebirth, and Diana and Matthew adjusting to raising two magical children. As a fan of the original trilogy, I loved the chapters about the Bishop-Clairmont family, especially the development of Philip and Rebecca’s magical abilities. It was wonderful to see Matthew and Diana enjoy some small measure of peace as a couple too. With Marcus and Phoebe separated for ninety days, Diana urges Marcus to revisit his past in an attempt to understand the present.
“Any creature who causes a ripple, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can change the course of events.”
The chapters focused on Marcus’s history are engaging and well-written, spanning 1762 to 1817 and exploring major events such as the American and French Revolutions. Marcus remains one of my favourite characters because of his impulsive nature, anti-authoritarianism and revolutionary beliefs. I especially appreciated the fond relationship between him and Ysabeau. The main problem I had with the book was Phoebe. It was hard to be invested in her and Marcus’s relationship as we’ve seen so little of them together. Phoebe is only twenty-three and comes across as quite privileged, even spoiled, at times. Her character didn’t seem to develop much and, by the end, I still didn’t feel any warmer towards her. In fact, I found it difficult to understand why Marcus loved her.
“You cannot save the world or everyone in it, but you must find a way to make a difference.”
It was fascinating to explore the making of a vampire though, as this hasn’t been focused on in the trilogy. The sensory overload and Phoebe’s sensitivity were especially interesting but I would have liked to understand why Phoebe, in particular, remained so sensitive to touch and light. Without the backstory and worldbuilding from the trilogy, I think a new reader would struggle with understanding some of the plot and characters so I’d definitely recommend reading those first. However, if you’re a fan of the All Souls trilogy then you’ll probably love this story of Marcus and Phoebe.