Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book review: "Daggerspell" by Katherine Kerr


Key word in his paragraph is "passion"... If I noticed this before and gave it attention, I probably wouldn't buy this book. Few months ago I was browsing Amazon and looking for a new series I could start. WoT and MBoF are close to finish line and who knows when next ASoIaF book will come out... All other series I am currently reading are trilogies and quadrologies. I plan to start "The Stormlight Archive", but that's only one. So I am constantly in look for long epic series and have few candidates already: "The Second Apocalypse" by R. Scott Bakker (6 books; I read first two but own none), "Wars of Light and Shadow" by Janny Wurts (11 books), "Saga of Recluce" by L.E. Modesitt (16 books), "The Three Worlds Cycle" by Ian Irvine (14 books) and "Shadows of the Apt" by Adrian Tchaikovsky (at least 8 books). I prefer series that are near the end, so I don't have to wait long for next books.

"Deverry Cycle" by Katherine Kerr was one of such candidates. It has 15 books, all published. When I did the research (on Wikipedia), I found out that it was set in world based on Celts. It sounded quite the ordinary setting: barbaric humans, long-lived and rare elves, some dwarves and something like orcs. Also, short synopsis didn't sound very innovating. But the comments looked good and the name Katherine Kerr is quite famous in fantasy circles, so I decided to give it a try.

First I want to complain about the price! Smallish paperback edition I bough, 450 pages long, was priced at 13 GBP (20 USD). "Toll the Hounds", a brand-new top-seller book, in really good paperback edition 900 pages long cost the same when I bought it.

As you can assume from my complaints, I didn't like the book. It is a story about Jill, who after her mother's death starts to travel around with her dishonored father Cullyn, best fighter in the kingdom of Deverry. At the same time, Jill is being sought by sorcerer Nevyn, who wants to help her to discover her own magical skills and thus repay the debt he owns her from their prior lives. They will meet while helping Rhodry, a young noble who was connected with them in past lives, to break the rebellion in his mothers county.

Past lives have a large role here: in their first life Jill was Nevyn's fiancĂ©e whom he left because of his wish to learn dweomer (magic). She then ended tragically, being in incest relationship with her brother (now reborn as Cullyn), who because of her killed his best friend, past version of Rhodry. Nevyn never died because of his magical (or dweomer) vow to repair the evil he was root. This scenario played few times between first version and present Jill, always unfortunately.

Although the plot is not bad, it's too straightforward and simple. Also, it is the only one; there are no multiple plots, hidden meanings, sense of wondering what is going on.... There are few characters and you have no problem following them. You know who is who, what is going on, and it is not hard to guess what will happen next. As I said, world is based on Celts, but in advanced Dark Age: complex hierarchy between nobility, feudal system, no science, strong influence of church, constant feuding between nobles... Magic and other races are known only as terrible legends among humans. Only partly they are present in this book; I understand that they play much larger role in later books. World-building is nice and one of better parts of the book, but I am accustomed to much more complex worlds and setting. Also, Kerr's insisting on using Celts words is a bit off-putting.

Characters are what probably ruined this book for me. They are too simple and one-sided. All men in this book are occupied by only one thing: their honor. Including Nevyn, who is half a millennia old wizard and should definitely know better. Even while giving over to sin, they are lamenting inside how terrible persons they are and how they have no honor. And women... In one scene, Jill is "feeling like a slut" because she has sexual desire while object of her desire has smarter things to do (in this case fight). This is not a first book I have read where women are in inferior position, but this is the first book where everyone (including characters, narrators and the writer) are acting like this is OK.

While it is true there is passion in "Daggerspell", it is a passion that belongs in cheap love-stories. Main characters are having worst times of their lives and it leaves me completely indifferent - this is not a mark of a good book. Only surprising thing for me was Cullyin's conclusion.

This book was simply not good enough for me and I am sorry that I bought it. On the other hand, series is well known and sounds like it gets more complex later. So, if you like this book, I can only presume you will like sequels even more. On the other hand, I double I will continue reading this series; it belongs to category with "Sword of Truth" by Terry Goodkind, only other series I gave up. I don't recommend this book to fans of epic fantasy.

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