Thursday, January 7, 2021

Deborah Harkness - Time's Convert

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.
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. 

Comment: This is the first book I read in 2021.

I really loved the All Souls trilogy from which this book came out as a sequel. I remember I liked the character of Marcus there and it was known this story would be published, I was quite eager but then, I waited and waited for a paperback edition to match the ones I had of the other trilogy but to no avail. I finally gave in and got this one, also a paperback.

In this book we follow Marcus and his fiancé Phoebe as they go through the traditional motions of becoming mates. Phoebe has decided to become a vampire, both heir families have decided to agree with their decision and now it's only a matter of time. While Phoebe deals with her transformation, we keep following the rest of the family and what is happening to them but we also dive into what has been Marcus' past and how he came to be the man/vampire we know.

My impressions of this story are a little complicated to describe because I think its biggest issue is the ratio between past and present content. Like I said, the story is mostly about Marcus and Phoebe but there's a lot more focus on Marcus. I can understand this, after all he is a vampire who lived a lot more than Phoebe so his experiences are broader. Besides, what he has gone through has shaped his character, his values, his general POV.

Nevertheless, I think there are just too many pages describing Marcus' thoughts and days in the past, both as human and vampire. I wouldn't have minded we got to see some of those things as a flashback or a reminiscence sequence if that mattered to any kind of situation happening now. In fact, it's a little obvious this would be included, when Phoebe is going through her own transformation. A vampire's past is treated as something almost too fragile to touch or to mention and I can understand, so we get to "see" instead of being "told" by Marcus or those who were with him during those days. However, it was also quite dull and annoying to have so many pages with the past situations when I was actually interested in what was going on now! I think it was a case of changing the rules and the author could have told us those things instead.

The past sections aside - no matter how richly described or well researched to give validity to the character's reactions in the 18th century and after - what I liked the best were the scenes of what was happening in the present. This story is happening in the timeline following the original trilogy so we also have several chapters from Diana's POV and how family life is going. It's something special indeed, when apparently simplicity and domestic life can make you smile, for the characters earned their HEA and their lives continue beyond our imagination...

Then, of course, we have Phoebe's experience with transforming to a vampire and all the rules she must follow in order to be accepted, to learn, to control herself. I actually think these sections weren't developed enough, it's like we only have glimpses. It's true one can understand what she is feeling by how she reacts/talks/etc, but I wish we could have spent more time in her head, and that her relationship with Marcus wasn't so heavily focused on fulfilling vampire traditions so they could prove their mating was strong and true. I mean I would have liked more scenes or chapters with them established as a couple and going through their life.

In the end, they face together some of Marcus' ghost from his past as a human but I finished the book with a bittersweet taste, if their decision is to be the one I understood. It's nothing bad and in their vampire existence a blink of an eye but my romantic/nurturing side would have preferred something else for their house choice, for instance. Still, it was very good to see them in love and in awe of one another, I can certainly appreciate their HEA. At the same time, if there was to exist so many scenes from the past, I think it would have been amazing to me to have less of Marcus' past and more on how they met and fell in love during the trilogy timeline.

Everything considered, this was a good novel to bring me back to those feelings of wonder while reading the trilogy, I liked seeing Phoebe and Marcus together but yes, I kind of wish the book could have been a little more romantic, a little more on the now and less on the before.

Grade: 7/10

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