Book Review: Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr

498214Title: Daggerspell
Author: Katherine Kerr
Genre: Fantasy, Celtic Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery
Year of publication: 1993
Rating: 4,5 stars

Even as a young girl, Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious Wildfolk, who appeared to her from their invisible realm. Little did she know her extraordinary friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past and a fateful future. Four hundred years-and many lifetimes-ago, one selfish young lord caused the death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he vowed never to rest until he’d rightened that wrong-and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill and all those whom she would hold dear: her father, the mercenary soldier Cullyn; the exiled berserker Rhodry Maelwaedd; and the ancient and powerful herbman Nevyn, all bound in a struggle against darkness. . . and a quest to fulfill the destinies determined centuries ago. Here in this newly revised edition comes the incredible novel that began one of the best-loved fantasy series in recent years–a tale of bold adventure and timeless love, perilous battle and pure magic. For long-standing fans of Deverry and those who have yet to experience this exciting series, Daggerspell is a rare and special treat.

First of all, Daggerspell is part of a series, namely The Deverry Series. I am going to review each book from this series individually, but the reviews will most likely be posted in a row – since I will reread them all at once, during the course of the next couple of weeks.

I think I first read Daggerspell about four years ago, and I liked it. It wasn’t the best book I had ever read, nor the most outstanding storyline ever developed, but it was quite enjoyable nevertheless. Rereading it now, when I’m older and more experienced in reading fantasy novels, my thoughts about this book haven’t changed yet. I love the dynamics between all the characters, especially between Jill, Rhodry and Cullyn, and I love the old-but-sweet-grandfather-like personality of Nevyn. The thing I love the most about Katharine Kerr’s characters is the way they seem so human. They make mistakes, they have feelings they shouldn’t feel, they have good and bad qualities, sometimes they are the most enjoyable people ever, at other times you feel like hating them. That’s the actual beauty of the Deverry series. It’s based on humans, not on heroes. It could be about Jill and Rhodry, or it could be about you and me. They have no great destinies that make them into who they are (at least, not in this novel, and not just yet :P) but just by being who they are, they change the destiny of others. I have read many fantasy novels in my life, and not many authors grasp this humanity as well as Katherine Kerr does, and for that alone, the Deverry series is well worth reading.

There is one major aspect common to all books in the Deverry series: flashbacks to the past. In some novels these flashbacks are better planned and more thrilling than in others, and in my opinion the flashbacks in Daggerspell are the most needed, as they reveal essential clues to the story (whereas in the follow-ups, they sometimes only seem to be there as page-fillers or for the sake of having at least one flashback). Reincarnation, past lives and their influence on your current life, are all very important in the Deverry realm. The language lists at the beginning and ending of the novels is also fun, as it teaches you to speak and write bits and pieces of the language of Deverry. It makes the novel seem more ‘realistic’, like it’s not entirely set in a fantasy universe (although those formulas seem to work too, considering the great novels written by Feist, Hobb and Tolkien), plus the fact the world of Deverry is based on Celtic traditions and beliefs, which makes the novel into a weird mixture of fantasy and historical fiction (aka Celtic Fantasy, or Sword and Sorcery if you prefer :P).

My favourite character in this novel, without a doubt, is Cullyn. How he changed from the person he was in his past lifes, to the person he is in present day (present day in the novel, the year 1068 or something), is simply amazing. From all the characters, he is the one with the longest journey behind him, the longest struggle to get past, and for that, he is all the more admirable. Next up is Jill, with her hatred towards women’s clothing, her stubborn personality and her love for battles. Then Rhodry, with his damned sense of honor and loyalty, which occasionally caused me to have a headache, and get insanely annoyed. But I liked him nevertheless.

There are some more adult themes in this novel, which I must warn you about, such as incest, mildly descriptive love scenes (really mildly though, nothing you don’t see on television :P), violence and some profanity. Nevertheless, I am convinced anyone age 16 and up, with a mild maturity level, can read these novels without much hassle.

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