by Deborah Harkness
Series: World of All Souls #1
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Viking Books
I am an unrepentant fan of A Discovery of Witches and the rest of the All Souls Trilogy, but this one didn’t hit that same sweet spot for me, although in some ways it was better than I’d hoped for.
Set in the same world as the All Souls books, with all the same characters, this book focuses on Matthew’s vampire son, Marcus, and his soon-to-be-mate Phoebe, as she goes through the process of becoming a vampire. This is the excuse/framework Harkness uses to delve into Marcus’ story, one rich in American Revolution history and personal tragedy.
Told in 3 alternating points of view, Phoebe’s present day (3rd person) narrative of her transformation was the part of the book I liked least. It involved a lot of vampiric tropes that felt a bit tired, and there was a cat introduced that damn near ended the book. The cat is not harmed, but I’m not at all satisfied with the role it plays in Phoebe’s new life; it felt like Harkness was purposefully screwing with readers and the unwritten rule of ‘don’t harm pets’. Either way, I just wasn’t that invested in Phoebe – though I did like Freyja.
The second point of view was Marcus’ flash-backs into his life before and after becoming a vampire. This was, if not a more enjoyable tale, one that was a hell of a lot more interesting. Rich in historical backdrops and characters, these sections were vivid and heartbreaking. The occasional small gaps in story flow were almost invisible, overwhelmed by the rich storytelling. It also helped that these were the parts that involved Gallowglass, my personal favorite character in the books.
The final point of view was, for me, the best, because it was told in first person present day by Diana and involved almost all the old characters I know and love from the trilogy. Here are Diana, Matthew, Marcus, Sarah, Ysabeau and the rest, spending the summer in the south of France, listening to Marcus tell his tale while Phoebe is in Paris learning to be a vampire and not properly appreciating her pets. Diana and Matthew’s kids provide some scope for funny antics, and the overall relaxed plot of this book means it’s easier for Harkness to indulge in scenes involving the kind of family dynamics everyone thinks are hilarious in other people’s families. I enjoyed the humor woven through these sections almost more than I did any other part of the book.
The story is complete, but there are subtle hints that more books about the other characters may be forthcoming. Baldwin seems the most obvious choice, though I’m holding out for Gallowglass to get his 15 minutes. A girl can hope, anyway.