When Dr. Rowan Mayfair pulls Michael Curry’s body from San Francisco Bay, she brings him back to life with her extraordinary healing powers. Once back, Michael has extraordinary powers, too: he can now ‘‘read’’ any object placed into his hands, knowing details of the people who once handled it. But as The Witching Hour, the first book in Anne Rice’s Witches Chronicles, opens, Michael also has a problem. While he was dead, he accepted a supernatural challenge to return to life to do something, and now he can’t remember what it is. He meets Rowan again to see if she can help him discover his promise, and they fall in love. He leaves her to return to New Orleans, the place where they both were born, where he eventually learns what his promise was. When Rowan gets word that her mother has died there, she follows him. They meet Rowan’s family and learn Rowan’s destiny: as Aaron Lightner of the psychic detective group, the Talamasca, tells them, she is the thirteenth in the long line of the Mayfair witches. Aaron provides them with a complete history of the witches, a story of torture, murder, rape, incest, insanity, and possession, and Rowan is determined that she will not fall as her ancestors have. She is the witch who will free the family from the curse of the demon who has given the witches their power, the force the first witch called Lasher because he made the trees lash in the wind. At the Witching Hour on Christmas Eve, Rowan meets Lasher in the book’s climax, playing out the last scene in Lasher’s great centuries-old plan.