Witches and vampires take on a literary bent with Deborah Harkness, who returns with Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, in Time’s Convert. If you missed the All Souls Trilogy introducing the cast of characters, Harkness thoughtfully brings you into the family with clever references as she tells the new story of what it takes to become a vampire.
Alternating between contemporary Paris and London, and the American colonies during the Revolutionary War, the story fills in the background of one of its main characters. Matthew de Clermont, now Diana’s husband, when he meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during the war. Matthew, a vampire, offers Marcus the opportunity for immortality and a new life. Marcus’s transformation is not an easy one and his newfound family often clashes with his inbred beliefs. In the present, Marcus’s fiancee is undergoing her own tranformation to becoming a vampire, and Diana is coping with her two year old twins who seem to have discovered their powers.
If you are a reader of magic, the supernatural, and romance, Time’s Convert will satisfy. And if you are a fan, Discovery of Witches has been filmed and showing in the UK, with Matthew Goode from Downton Abbey playing the handsome vampire. Not yet in the United States; maybe PBS will add it to its collection next year.
Related Review: Discovery of Witches
Celebrating the power of witches in Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic seems an appropriate way to celebrate Halloween. Hoffman reveals the back story of the two witch aunts who raise Sally and Gillian Owens in her novel made into a movie – Practical Magic. This prequel dates back to the childhood of Frannie and Jet, played in the movie by a feisty Stockard Channing and an aerie Dianne Wiest.
The premise of the family curse bequeathed from the seventeenth century – that any man who falls in love with an Owens woman will die – controls the romance in the story, but thankfully Hoffman spins this tale with less horror and more introspection. History plays a big role with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War changing the direction for some of the characters. And, if you were wondering how two maiden aunts could have nieces? Hoffman writes in a brother for them in the prequel, a handsome wizard who resists going to war. The children in Practical Magic are his grandchildren.
A fast and entertaining read – try it while you are munching on your Halloween stash.
And, if you’d like to try Aunt Isabelle’s Chocolate Tipsy Cake for breakfast, the recipe is here.
More Books About Witches:
The final chapter of the Deborah Harkness three book trilogy in The Book of Life has me yearning to restart from the beginning of Book One. Finally, witch Diana has overcome the powers of darkness and united all creatures through magic and a little genetic research. Finally, she had become a woman of formidable power, a professor by day and head of a feisty Board of vampires, daemons, and witches by night – with her handsome brooding vampire lover, Matthew, at her side. The ending was satisfying and inevitable, but the journey is everything. If you have read the first two books, you will appreciate how cleverly Harkness uses history and ancestry to bind the story.
If you are a fan of Gabaldon’s Outlander, and can suspend belief while Harkness carries you away – all the while grounding you in the cycle of family dissension and worldly politics, you will find the same contented flavor of adventure, romance, and intrigue with the All Souls Trilogy. Harkness ends with a not so subtle message appropriate for today’s worldly unrest. If only we had her magic threads to tie us all together.
The Book of Life can stand alone, but if you want the total experience, start from the beginning – or at least read the reviews:
Books read – but decided not to review…
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead: a weekend on a beautiful New England island off Nantucket, preparing for the wedding that ends the book, includes disappointments, anxieties, mid-life crisis, wit and humor, insights and frustrations.
The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss: 19th century England, enchanted pages from a book engraved by the poet William Blake, Lord Byron (of the famous Romantic poets) as a handsome womanizer and political manipulator, Lucy Derrick comes into her supernatural powers and changes her destiny and the industrial revolution, other-worldly and fun.
If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad…Lord Byron
What is the real secret of the philosopher’s stone? Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches connects its immortality, wealth and knowledge to vampires.
Although the story begins slowly with academic references and a strange book recalled from the Oxford library stacks by Dr. Diana Bishop, it’s not long before witches, daemons, and vampires are locked in a battle for the ancient and powerful information the book promises. With a witch pedigree that tracks back to the Salem witch trials, Diana has stubbornly refused to acknowledge or use her magical powers until a handsome irresistible vampire, Dr. Matthew Clairmont becomes her protector and true love.
By mixing scientific inquiry, evolution and DNA, with popular interest in vampires and other worldly magical creatures, Harkness creates a compelling combination of mystery thriller, romance, and fantasy – with a sprinkling of scholarly historical fiction. If you look closely, she also added a dash of intolerance for bigotry and racism. As the action escalates, imaginative details on witchcraft and vampire lore, as well as a few well-used myths, supplement the plot line. The antics of Diana’s childhood home reminded me of Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays at the Castle, but The Discovery of Witches is not for children.
This is the first of a trilogy, and I missed this book’s debut last year, but thanks to a good friend who reads the Mount Holyoke alumni newsletter, I’m back on track. The second book – Shadow of Night – is already on the New York Times bestseller list, and I won’t have to wait long to find out what happens to the star-crossed lovers as they battle the forces of evil – time traveling back to sixteenth century England. I can’t wait.