by Deborah Harkness
This book extends the world created in the All Souls Trilogy, focusing on two minor characters in the trilogy: Marcus MacNeil, Matthew de Clairmont’s vampire son, and his fiancé, Phoebe Taylor, an art expert who works for Sotheby’s in London.
Phoebe is becoming a vampire in a well-supervised 90-day process in which she and Marcus must have no contact. To the surprise of those who know him, Marcus, an eternal rebel, has agreed to follow the formal process of engagement and marriage to Phoebe.
Most of the story focuses on the 240-something-year-old Marcus, the abused son of an alcoholic father, who runs away to join the rebel forces of the American Revolution. He develops medical skills working in field hospitals. As the war winds down, Marcus is exposed to camp fever. He is dying when Matthew offers to make him a vampire.
Becoming a vampire is only the first — and possibly the easiest — step to becoming a member of the de Clairmont family. He is sent to France to be polished by Matthew’s aunts and mother. His biggest challenge is not learning manners and social skills, it’s learning obedience and deference to the family hierarchy. Marcus finds himself forced to choose between his French revolutionary friends and the family that made and protects him.
The story of Marcus’s long life is woven in with the ongoing lives of Matthew and Diana and their twins Becca and Philip. The rare offspring of a witch and a vampire, they share qualities of both parents and appear to be developing magical powers.
Harkness is a master at blending history with her fantasy world of vampires, witches and daemons. The story runs through the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the early development of New Orleans. Statesman Ben Franklin, revolutionary Thomas Paine, and aristocrat and military officer Lafayette make appearances in the story as does the French radical Jean-Paul Marat.
Although entertaining, this book doesn’t have the suspense, romance and drive of the All Souls Trilogy, which was sweeping in scale. That said, this book is an entertaining read.
About the Author: Deborah Harkness (1965 – )
Deborah Harkness is a historian, wine enthusiast and author of the All Souls trilogy, which comprises Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life.
She is a well-regarded historian of science and medicine and has studied alchemy, magic and the occult. She is a professor of history and teaches European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California. She is the author of two nonfiction works of history: John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy and the End of Nature (1999) and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (2007).
The All Souls trilogy tells the story of a modern day witch (Diana Bishop) who inadvertently calls up an ancient enchanted manuscript at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, attracting the attention of a host of magical creatures who live among humans including other witches, daemons, and a 1,500-year old French vampire, Matthew Clairmont. Through the second and third books of the trilogy, Diana and Matthew grow to trust, then love each other, travel through time and attempt to unlock the secrets of the mysterious book.
In May 2018, she published The World of All Souls: The Complete Guide to A Discover of Witches, Shadow of Night and the Book of Life. The book elaborates on Harkness’s sources of inspiration for the All Souls Trilogy and gathers maps, character biographies and the science behind creatures, magic and alchemy.