Reviewed by Chris Loza
By Deborah Harkness
448 pp. Viking.
I felt a quiver in my heart when I learned that I would be receiving an advance copy of Time’s Convert. Having read—and loved—the All Souls Trilogy from years past, it felt like a warm homecoming of some sort to read about familiar characters told from a different perspective and on a much more nuanced tale than it was before. Whereas The All Souls Trilogy felt grand and sweeping—a more mature and evolved take on vampires and witches—Time’s Convert is more intimate, peeling off the characters’ lives to reveal layers of conflict and complexity that were hinted at in the previous books of the trilogy.
The crux of the story is Marcus and Phoebe’s love story, Phoebe’s transformation from warmblood to vampire to be with the man she loves evermore. The author goes through the essentials of the transformation, the ceremony and the challenges that every warmblood faces during and after. The first meal, the first hunt, the uncontrollable desires, the hypersensitivity to everything—all that is manifested in Phoebe’s incredible journey to become a vampire.
The book flips the pages further to reveal Marcus’s history, how Matthew transformed him, revealing a complex, tragic hero during the American Revolution. The author’s spin on the war and how vampires played a role as well as cameos from real-life historical figures are a refreshing delight on an otherwise dark and somber page on human history. It refocuses the war not from the point of view of the generals, but from the young soldiers, the pawns in a chess game, forced to fight something they don’t fully understand. With the Revolution as the backdrop, we see, gradually, sometimes painfully, how Marcus’s past shaped much of his life afterwards.
When the story moves back to the present, we find our lovers from the previous trilogy, Diana and Matthew, coping with parenthood as their children start to exhibit abilities that are beyond the sum of their parts. Their part of the story feels like a long, lovely epilogue to The All Souls Trilogy. This is what they’re up to now, this is how they’re doing after their own adventures have been told in previous stories. But more than serving as a nice wrap-up to their own story, the novel sends them up and hints at further adventures on their own with their children.
The novel as a whole provides rich and layered answers to questions about Marcus and Phoebe from the previous trilogy. It provides a deeper context about vampires, beyond the stereotype for bloodlust and rage. Towards the end, the matriarch of the de Clermont family, Ysabeau, provides a rousing sentiment about being a vampire. How one must continuously choose life, their own life, over everything. How the drive to live is what stops them from becoming a nightmare or a shadow of the humans they once were. Vampires, who have a wider view of life, who do not feel the rush of death encroach on them every day, can teach humans a thing or two about slowing down and savoring the gradual turn of time.
What I get from reading this novel is how precious time is for those of us who have so little of it and how powerful it is for those who have an eternity of it. Time’s Convert is about time’s omnipotence. There’s so much to be said about it. We’ve heard about how time heals, but before it does, it destroys everything. And here in this novel, we see it starkly portrayed from Marcus’s life, death, and rebirth to Phoebe’s transformation to the unwieldy powers of Diana and Matthew’s children. From the past, the present, and hints about the future, we see the wheel of time patiently turning, converting life to death to rebirth.
Do not be intimidated coming into this novel without any background of the previous books. You won’t miss a beat. It will get you curious and grab them after you’ve put this one down because all the characters in The All Souls Universe have interesting stories to tell. They have, after all, lived through so much of human history. And after you’ve read all published books, you’ll wait for the next ones to come out whether they’re about Gallowglass or Matthew’s story in England under Henry VIII or Diana and Matthew’s further adventures with their children. There is an entire universe waiting to be read and explored.
Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness will be available soon at Fully Booked stores. Reserve a copy in advance here.
Chris has written on Wattpad, yellowpads, and notepads. A few of his articles are in the dusty archives of Inquirer’s Youngblood and Philippine Star’s My Favorite Book, while one story got lost among the Kindles on Amazon. He works as a Systems Administrator by day and a recluse at night. You can reach him on Twitter and Instagram @cd_loza.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]