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The Deverry Series by Katherine Kerr
Review by Mike
This momentous series falls into the Celtic fantasy category. Since I haven't read any other books in that genre, I can't say if it's typical or not. At the moment 11 books have been published, which is rather a lot for a story that was originally intended to fit into a short novella of perhaps a hundred pages or so. Though it is one story from the beginning to the end, it has been divided into three acts which concentrate of different sub-plots and, to some extent, different characters.
Act 1: Deverry
Act 2: The Westlands Cycle
Act 3: The Dragon Mage
The people of Deverry are descendants of a Celtic tribe from Gaul or Gallia (roughly todays France), who fled to a new country after a failed rebellion against the Roman Empire. This has led people to speculate that Deverry is some alternative Britain, but its a bit more complicated than that. To use SF terminology, the world (or planet I guess) Annwn, of which Deverry is but a small part, lies in another dimension. By that I mean that there is and has never been a physical connection between Earth and Annwn. However, you will soon discover that much of the magic (dweomer) is directed outside the physical world (sometimes referred to as the world of matter). There exists a number of more insubstantial worlds or planes to which a person trained in dweomer can travel with his mind. Those planes border upon both our world and Annwn, and possibly a large number of other physical worlds. Somehow there is a Mother of All Roads going through these planes by which you can travel between physical worlds. The Gauls did not know of this, but a strange being called Evandar, who dwells in the insubstantial planes, helped them to flee through the Mother of All Roads.
When the Gauls arrived to Annwn they did not find an empty country, and their conquests and foundation of the kingdom of Deverry set about movements of all the humanoid races living on that continent. There were terrible wars and much animosity between them, and its not until the present timeline of the story, a thousand years later, that there is a chance of amendment. Except for the Deverrians, the Elcyion Lacar or Elves, features heavily in the books already from the beginning. Later on other races come into play to too.
To understand Deverrians you have to take the reincarnation concept into account. The people are as much shaped by the environment they grow up in as what happened to them in previous lives. You see, as souls get born again and again into the world of matter, strong feelings like love and hate have a tendency to survive death and influence your next life. Also, persons you have unfinished business with in one life will probably cross your road when you get reborn. However, only those trained in the dweomer are able to truly remember previous lives. All this establish a solid ground for some truly interesting character development.
While the minor characters sometimes seem a bit wooden (for example the Deverrian lords all act much the same), people like Jill, Cullyn and Rhodry are very interesting to follow through their different lives. Kerr is most definitely not the kind of fantasy author that only has good guys and bad guys. Nobody is perfect, and as usual, its the characters somewhere in between that make the series worth reading. Then we have Salamander, the chattering elf, for comic relief. I love that character *g*.
Reincarnation makes for a complicated plot. The story starts around the year 1050, but almost immediately we are thrown back 400 years in time to where everything really started. Well, thats not 100% true it all started with the arrival of the Gauls to Annwn, but that story is not included. This jumping around in time have annoyed many readers of Deverry greatly, myself included. But after a while I realised that it is necessary to do it that way to get a true understanding of peoples motivation. And when you get into the story, you start to see how the events in different places in space and time interact to create a plot that takes you from a beginning to an end, without happening in chronological order.
So, here we have an intriguing world, excellent characters and a plot that weaves characters and events during a time-span of more than 400 years into a fascinating story. And the best part is that these books get better with every re-read. I would be very surprised if you havent guessed what grade Im going to award The Deverry series with by now, but lets state it for the record five amulets!
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