Fate is the second book in the Time and Light series. I quite enjoyed the first, Farundell, which I’ve read and reviewed three years ago and so I was looking forward to see what this one was about. Both of these books can also be read as standalone novels.
“What am I?
Not a ghost, though that is what most people believe. I am, and it looks like I shall forever be, Lord Francis Peter George St John Damory.
I was born more than two hundred years ago and although I am not strictly speaking alive, I am obviously not dead. My appearance is as I choose, though usually I resemble my old self. I was a handsome man; I enjoyed it then and I enjoy it now. I am not beyond vanity, nor any other trick or trap of earthly existence. My body is a simulacrum, as is my study, my fire, brandy, pen, paper.
I am an artist of the aether.”
It’s 1717, London, and young Francis Damory and his brother Sebastian are out on the town for a night of enjoyment to celebrate Francis’ 17th birthday, when they are attacked. As Francis lies in the gutter, he remembers the night of his eleventh birthday when he went sleepwalking through the rooms of Farundell and had a brief conversation with his great-great-grandfather, Tobias, whose life he knew very little about except for rumors that were quickly hushed up. Tobias had died a long time ago. Or did he?
So begins a lifelong obsession, as Francis sets up to find the elusive Tobias. As thread after thread unravels in his hands, Francis becomes more and more convinced his ancestor is alive. But how is this possible? Is he immortal or just a product of too many tales embellished over the years? And if he is still alive, where is he? Mysterious books with a rose and a cross on the cover, an enigmatic Contessa, a piece of paper leading to a secluded villa on a small island, and a key that would fit a special door, are just a few of the clues that lie scattered throughout the book like the famous crumbs in the forest. Picking them one by one, Francis travels from London to Paris and Venice, to Cairo and Constantinople, he buries loved ones, has children, encounters pirates, meets a sultan, and his life becomes interconnected with a variety of interesting characters – a friend who becomes an enemy, a famous castrato whose voice is the toast of Europe, a trusted servant, a string of lovers, distant relatives. And with each adventure he is getting closer, his curiosity driving him on, his need to know the single most powerful force in his life. Like a magnet, the elusive Tobias seems to be always one step further, his presence almost tangible, and Francis never stops pursuing him. His quest does end, only to be replaced by another, even more powerful, and Francis seems to never find peace, to always run after something only to discover yet another ramification at the end of the path he’s taken.
Most of the characters are endowed with beauty and great wealth; they flaunt a sexual freedom unrestricted by the rules of society. They live their lives passionately and some die violently – Fredericks does not shy away from killing likeable characters.
Descriptions of detailed anatomical procedures may be a bit graphic for some readers but I found myself fascinated by the details – the preserving of bodies, autopsies – the author writes about them not with a rough hand of someone seeing the cut flesh but with a certain respect and reverence for the receptacle of the human soul. The cravings of the body and the yearnings of the soul are on display and behind the many adventures of Francis Damory, lies a quest for something far more greater than himself. What he wants comes at a high price and there is no undoing.
Farundell was an interesting book but it felt a bit dispersed, in the sense that there were a few characters whose stories mingled together, while Fate follows Francis Damory and his ancestor Tobias, giving the narrative a more precise focus.
Reading this book reminded me of the Arabian Nights (from adventure to adventure, never ending) and Dracula (the quest for finding the immortal one, although there are no vampires in the story), and also of Anne Rice’s The Mayfair Witches series (experimenting with the purpose of creating an immortal being), all of them books I loved. There are also references to Greek and Egyptian gods, cats and temples, pyramids, and elixirs, a séance session complete with fortune telling cards – it helps if you’re familiar with mythology but is by no means a requirement to enjoy this book.
What I liked most about it was the sense of adventure – it had a good pace and an ongoing sense of mystery and the ending which is both satisfying and also made me want to find out more. I’m very curious to see if the third installment, The Book of Luce, out next year, will pick up where this has left off or if it’s just loosely connected to it.
Some of my favorite passages:
“The wine tasted strangely of roses; the cloth covering the table was embroidered with roses. As I watched, they twined and blossomed, releasing a sweet fragrance. I heard a sound like bells ringing, though the bell tower was long fallen. Isabel reached out and took my hand. Her gloves were embroidered with roses, alive and growing. I shook my head; the ringing faded and the roses stilled.”
“I took another bite. Yes, now I could taste the peach, the apricot. “It’s wonderful,” I said. “I didn’t know it was possible to combine two fruits in a single tree.”
“Oh yes, possible. Many things are possible if one has the time.”
“Precisely how I came to be stranded in this state is something I have not yet entirely understood, but there is no doubt that, as an experienced chemist, I should have known that the application of intense heat to a substance (my body) whose nature I did not fully comprehend was likely to have unexpected consequences.”
I’ve read this book for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.
Read in April, 2014
My rating: 5/5 stars