Time's Convert: A Novel
Time’s Convert, the latest novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness, tells the story of Marcus MacNeil, a drifter running from his past, who finds himself working alongside a dedicated surgeon on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War. Chevalier Matthew de Clermont arrives at a makeshift medical facility on the edge of a raging battle and insists that the young “Doc” tend to his friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, after a musket ball went through the Frenchman’s left calf. So begins the story of Matthew and Marcus.
Meanwhile, in present-day Paris, Phoebe Taylor (Marcus’s beloved) undergoes the transformation from human to vampire. Harkness skillfully weaves the emotional and physical changes that occur during this process, which, according to tradition, must be done over a period of 90 days. During this time, Diana Bishop—witch, mother, and wife of the moody vampire, Matthew de Clermont—senses that Marcus has ghosts from his past that he needs to revisit to move forward in his new life with Phoebe.
Throughout the story, Diana and Matthew navigate their way through their new lives as parents of two-year-old twins, Becca and Philip, Bright Born children (half vampire, half witch). As in A Discovery of Witches where Diana refused to take on her witch heritage, she now struggles to allow her children to explore their inherent magical abilities. While Matthew’s concerns about his daughter’s habit of biting others and drawing blood cause him to question her ability to live in the present world among vampires who do not see such behavior as a two-year-old’s teething complaint, but something much worse.
Harkness is at her best when delving into layers of history to reveal the geographical, architectural, and everyday details of a young America during the Revolutionary War. This knowledge combined with her verve for descriptive writing is what makes her stories strong and believable.
Her talent comes alive as she reveals the life story of Marcus MacNeil, who due to an event that causes him to flee his home and loved ones, finds himself tending to the sick and dying in the middle of a raging war. “In the army’s temporary hospital in Morristown, time passed in a never-ending stream of wounds and illnesses that flowed among tables and cots, crates of bandages, and boxes of medicines. No sooner did a new patient arrive than a former patient left. Some left in pine boxes, destined for the graveyard dug on the outskirts of town. The more fortunate were sent home to convalesce from broken limbs and gunshot wounds or cases of dysentery. Others languished on the wards, poorly fed and poorly housed, unable to die, yet equally unable to heal.”
Whereas previously, the relationship between Diana and Matthew has yielded an underlying pull of passion that binds witch and vampire together, in Time’s Convert this is not the case. Admittedly, the couple are now exhausted parents to twins in their second year of life; however, Matthew and Diana seem to have lost the ardor they appeared destined to cherish, and with an extended family of babysitters and with the sexual need of vampires—as denoted in Phoebe’s transition—it is odd that their relationship lacks burning sexuality.
Instead, their once passionate love life gets swept under the ink-filled pages, hurried and unromantic, with narrative left screaming for tender sensuality and love, such as: “After an energizing tussle under the canopy, Matthew and I went to the nursery to rouse the twins.” “We made use of the chaise and lingered to watch the clouds through the skylight.”
Although Time’s Convert is not part of the All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life), it is not a stand-alone book. To understand the story and characters entirely all three books in the trilogy need to be read before reading this newest addition to the magical, supernatural world Harkness has created.
Overall, fans of the All Souls Trilogy will enjoy Time’s Convert and the journey of discovery into Marcus’s life; the backstory that encompasses his belief in liberty and freedom and his passion for life make for a beautiful story.