Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Darkspell (Deverry #2) by Katherine Kerr

Title: Darkspell (Deverry #2)
Author: Katherine Kerr
Publisher: HarperCollins, 1994

We continue our journey with Nevyn as he comes up against the sinister Old One – a dark dweomer master who has sent his operatives into Deverry to steal a magical jewel and sow dissent. Of course Jill and Rhodry soon find themselves entangled in the plot, and Katherine Kerr also takes us on a secondary journey to examine more of our central characters’ past lives, and how these influence current events.

The template of the warrior-maiden seems to be cast for Jill, only in her past life we get to know her as a priestess in service of the Moon Goddess’s dark phase. Events unfold that have definitive repercussions much later, as the souls bound by a shared wyrd seem fated to re-enact certain patterns until they’ve worked out their issues. Of course the outcomes are never quite the same, but there is always an undercurrent of tragedy.

New characters include Rhodry’s father, who is one of the Elcyion Lacar, or elvish folk, and also Rhodry’s half-brother, Salamander. We are also introduced to the mysterious McGuffin – a magical ring (surprise, surprise) – that is supposed to be Rhodry’s birthright, though we are yet to discover the full circumstances that suggest Rhodry will be playing a more important role in Saving The Day.

Apart from the retrieval of the magical jewel of the West (that’s quite chatty too, thanks to its imbued spirits) that the dark dweomer practitioner Alystyr (shades of Crowley, perhaps?) and his two bumbling acolytes attempt to steal for the Old One, and which Jill, Rhodry and Nevyn then intercept, there really isn’t much else that happens in book #2.

Granted, the world-building and characterisation, as well as magical system, is what keeps me turning the pages. I find that this time round I am a bit annoyed with the good/light vs. bad/dark dweomer divisions. Also, the stereotyping of protagonist vs. antagonist in that the evil is portrayed as physically repulsive and some degenerate (and queer, for that matter) was not to my taste. But I must point out that I feel fantasy has evolved over the years to take a less dualistic approach, or at least in my experiences as a reader when showing a preference for protagonists that are not necessarily squeaky clean or particularly nice (um, hello Jorgy-boy a la Mark Lawrence).

Villains have, in my opinion, become more ambiguous in their negative and positive traits when it comes to fantasy literature. This is a good thing, because in my opinion, it’s closer to reality, but it must also be kept in mind that I feel Kerr’s earlier writing slips into an era when hard lines between good/evil were still the norm.

Yet, these issues considered, this remains an enjoyable story that has stood the test of time, especially since many of the details have remained foggy from the first time that I read this novel when I was a teen.

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