(2018) Deborah Harkness, Headline, £19.99, 436pp ISBN978-1-472-23733-0
Time’s Covert follows on from Deborah Harkness’ 'All Hallows' trilogy, the first of which recently televised as The Discovery of Witches series. A number of the characters that appear in the series and novel trilogy feature in this volume, so if you enjoyed either of those, then this is a delightful follow up.
You don’t need to have read the previous novels to enjoy this one: it is a standalone tale. However, as it is set after the life and death action of the previous stories it does immediately provide a spoiler, as will this review (you are warned), as to the survival of characters.
The tale revolves primarily around the love of Marcus, Matthew’s vampire son, and the human Phoebe, his soon to be mate. As she is a mortal, she chooses to take the traditional ceremony to become a vampire and transition into that life, before any final commitment to Marcus.
This tale is interspersed with Marcus’s reminisce of his life, death and rebirth, in the American War of Independence, and also the present-day reality of Diana and Matthew with their twin children. The children are a witch/vampire hybrid which has political connotations in their world, which are referenced but not examined in this novel.
Phoebe's exploration and growing understanding of the supernatural draws the reader in to the same world. Her realisation of the contradictions of having once been human, and now vampire, and her changing relationship with the mortal world is reflected in Marcus' own remembering of his own transition. This is then contrasted with the twins starting out of their journey of understanding of their magic and their unique place in the world, which I am sure will continue in a later novel.
The setting is one of the real world, but with the addition of witches, vampires and demons, who live in a carefully balanced secrecy from mortals. Their interaction with the mortals are governed by rules and traditions intended to keep them safe and secret, but that can prove restrictive.
The plot is driven by character development and insight rather than action. This is a familiar presentational style for readers of books from the supernatural romance genre: It's a love story, not a thriller, and is relationship based rather than sex. The plot brings no surprise action, we know that Marcus becomes a vampire as Matthew turns him and that he survives to the current day, so the flashbacks to Marcus' past hold little in the way of surprises, but it is the detail which is engaging. While we do not know the outcome of Phoebe's transition and Diana's dilemmas in the modern day, we are not held gripped by the suspense, but more gently swept along with the details and emotion.
Harkness writes beautifully engaging characters in a wonderful world of love, magic and politics. It is arguably not a fast-paced story but swapping between the narratives gives an illusion that it is moving quicker. It is a real love affair of character background and development, which would not be to everyone’s tastes, but I love it.
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