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Deryni Rising (A Novel of the Deryni) Mass Market Paperback – October 28, 2008
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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In the kingdom of Gwynedd, the mysterious forces of magic and the superior power of the Church combine to challenge the rule of young Kelson. Now the fate of the Deryni -- a quasi-mortal race of sorcerers -- and, indeed, the fate of all the Eleven Kingdoms, rests on Kelson's ability to quash the rebellion by any means necessary . . . including the proscribed use of magic!
About the Author
Katherine Kurtz has been writing fantasy for well over twenty-five years. She is married and lives in a renovated castle in the south of Ireland.
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Fortunately, that's not the case with Deryni Rising.
It's not without flaws, however. One reviewer gives it a one star review for the absolute good / absolute evil characters, and I can't dispute the criticism. Nuance of motive is not, at least in this first volume, in Kurtz' repertoire.
In fact, breaking things down stylistically, there is a lot to be disappointed in with this novel, so it is a testament to the power of her narrative that it is, in fact, a real page turner.
Kelson Haldane's father, the King, is killed in the prologue, and the subsequent novel covers the days to Kelson's coronation. Surrounded by treachery, ignorance, and general political scheming, there's a lot that can go wrong. It doesn't help that Kelson's most trusted advisor, Alaric Morgan, is a half-breed member of an almost-outlawed race with magic powers, and that virtually everyone is working on Morgan's downfall. This includes Kelson's mother, who is the most viciously anti-Deryni activist in the book. And, of course there is a usurper in the wings, herself a full Deryni sorceress, sowing discord and preparing for the restoration of a Deryni evil empire.
Reading this you can see influences into both Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.
Kurtz' style improves over the course of subsequent books: this is not just a first novel, it is a first novel sold-before-written, dashed off in a time when the bar for quality fiction in fantasy was non-existent.
Some things to gloss over: one dimensional characters. Frustrating and willful ignorance. Characters consistently jumping to untenable conclusions. Deus ex Machina solutions. Over-the-top descriptions (everyone is apparently astoundingly good looking in this world).
Some things to notice: great descriptions of ecclesiastical protocol. Beautiful descriptions of clothing. Gradual revelation of deeper mystery.
And yet, it is immensely readable. Gripping. Fun. And sets the stage very well for the books that follow.
If you like your fantasy with a quasi-medieval setting and a dose of magic, then you should certainly read this book. I think it is certainly suitable for young adult readers.
King Kelson Cinhil Rhys Anthony Haldane was one of my boyhood heroes and I still have a very warm place in my heart for him. I do like him better in The Histories of King Kelson, the later series. He's a little less perfect there so I'm less given to hero worship when he's portrayed as a very capable young man with but still flawed.
Deryni Rising is a fairly early example of historical fantasy and Kurtz did a good job building a fairly complex world for her characters to work in with the political and religious tensions needed to make it feel balanced and 'real'. Quite a lot happens in this slim book - especially given that the book covers about a 24-hour period.
The magical system is a mix of ritual, religion, rhymes and psychic power. I'm glad that she dropped the rhymes after this book, but they do make the climactic battle between Kelson and his nemesis Clarissa a lot of fun.
Overall, I think I will continue reading this book and series for years to come and it definitely qualifies as one of my favorite comfort reads.