The Witching Hour (novel)
"The Witching Hour" (1990) by
Anne Riceis the first novel in her series "Lives of the Mayfair Witches."
In this book we meet some of the trilogy's leading characters: Dr. Rowan Mayfair, a brilliant neurosurgeon who is ignorant of her family history; Michael Curry, a contractor who specializes in the restoration of old homes dreaming of his childhood in New Orleans and yearning to return there; Aaron Lightner, a psychic scholar and member of the Talamasca; Lasher, a spirit with wicked motives; and the Mayfair Witches, an old Southern family with a taste for poetry and incest, and a talent for secretiveness and business ventures. The majority of the Mayfair Witches are female (with the exception of Julien), and the family line matriarchal in lineage; i.e. families pass down the maiden name "Mayfair" instead of adopting the respective husband's last name. Rowan and Michael fall in love after she saves him from drowning, and when he decides to return to New Orleans, she follows him to learn the secrets of her past against the wishes of her adoptive mother. Aaron has been studying the Mayfairs and Lasher from afar for years, and tracks down Michael to share with him the history of the family and the spirit, whom Michael has been able to see since he was a boy.(He was also interested in Michael because of the psychometric power he developed in his hands after waking from nearly drowning.) What follows is a gruesome story filled with murder, incest, and betrayal. There are, however, many gaps which can only be filled in by Lasher himself.
Rowan and Michael marry despite all this, and Rowan takes on the responsibilities of the Designee of the Mayfair Legacy. She dreams of a medical center where anyone, regardless of age, race, or financial status, can be treated and healed. She conceives, and it seems as if she and Michael may escape the curse of the Legacy.
This is not to be, however, as Lasher finally reveals himself to Rowan, and explains his wish: to be made flesh so that he may walk the earth again and sets about slowly seducing Rowan through many intense intimate encounters. Secretly thinking that she can outwit this spirit, she agrees to send Michael away from the house on Christmas Day so that Lasher can fulfill his centuries-old ambition. Her plan (to bind Lasher to 'weak matter' which can be destroyed by her mental killing abilities) backfires as Lasher enters her womb, and makes himself at home in the fetus. Rowan immediately goes into labor, which is violent and bloody, and Lasher, the Taltos, is born.
Michael returns to the house then, and seeing what has become of the child that he had desperately wished for, he throws himself at the creature, thinking to kill him. Lasher is much too strong, though, and attempts to drown Michael in the pool.( Upon this second near death experience Michael loses the power in his hands.) Terrified for Michael's life, Rowan drags the creature away, and they run off together.
Throughout the novel there are mentions of the "Thirteen Witches" and the Thirteenth being the "Doorway". This in reference to Lasher selectively manipulating the Mayfair bloodline so that the Thirteenth witch, Rowan, would be more powerful than all the others. Lasher required a witch as powerful as Rowan because she possessed the ability to make him live. Lasher had possessed dead bodies with the help of Mary Beth and Julien Mayfair (two of the most powerful witches in the family), but due to limits in medical knowledge at the time, he could not make it live again and was unable to transform the bodies into Taltos bodies. When Lasher possesses Rowan's baby, the child effectively dies and as Lasher changes the cells into the Taltos, Rowan's diagnostic/healing abilities, along with her medical knowledge, are required to keep Lasher from also dying.
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