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Katharine Kerr

Katharine Kerr(1944- )
Katharine Kerr also writes science fiction, but she is best known for her fantasy epic Deverry. You can read some excerpts at Katharine Kerr’s website.

Daggerspell: Innovative world building, sympathetic characterization

Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr

As a young man, Nevyn’s inability to choose starts a series of events that leads to the death of his betrothed, her brother, and another man. At his beloved’s grave he swears to never rest until he has righted the wrongs he caused. The gods accept his vow, and he is gifted with immortality until he has fulfilled his promise. Daggerspell follows Nevyn’s attempts to pay the debts he owes as the spirits of the three people to whom he is spiritually tied are born and reborn.

Set in a pseudo-Celtic world, this first book in the Deverry series is an intriguing tale of love and redemption. The characters are interesting, and the central role of reincarnation provides an innovative variation on what would otherwise be a standard fantasy novel, complete with magical elves and dwarven blacksmiths. The system of magi... Read More

Darkspell: Just as gripping as Daggerspell

Darkspell by Katharine Kerr

Darkspell is the second Deverry book and it proves to be just as gripping as the first. Here we are dealing with a present time storyline of Jill and Rhodry's life on the road as silver daggers, and the danger they face from masters of dark dweomer. Jill discovers more about dweomer from Nevyn as he tries to gently encourage her to fulfill her Wyrd (destiny).

We also go back in time to a previous incarnation of Jill and Rhodry and Cullyn (Jill's father). The three souls (and others) have been twisted together because of vengeance, a miscarriage of destiny, and incestuous love. Here Jill is Gweniver — a lady who pledges herself to the Moon Goddess, and therefore will be unable to take to a life of dweomer. Nevyn resigns himself to watching her die in the service of the Goddess and going back to waiting for her so... Read More

Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood

Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood by Katharine Kerr

Note: In the UK, this book is titled Dawnspell. In the US it is The Bristling Wood.

Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood is my favourite of the series so far! In this book the modern day plot follows Jill and Rhodry as they are forced apart by circumstance, and ends on a real cliffhanger where Rhodry vanishes, and it is up to Jill and Salamander to try and find him. In the past we meet another incarnation of Jill and Rhodry, at a time when the silver daggers are brought into being and Rhodry fights to bring the one true king of Deverry to power. In the process, we learn a great deal more about the politics affecting Deverry.

As I said in a previous review, because the flashbacks tend to be the bulk of the book, it is necessary to find them entertaining if the novel as ... Read More

The Dragon Revenant: Generic but enjoyable

The Dragon Revenant (US) or Dragonspell: The Southern Sea (UK) by Katharine Kerr

For the first time in the Deverry series, all the action takes place in the present day rather than flitting back to fill gaps in the past, and the plot and pacing are all the tighter for it.

Rhodry has been sold as a slave on the Bardek islands, and one storyline follows his new life, intersected with information about Salamander and Jill chasing him down. Behind all this we discover more about the politics and machinations within the Hawks, the Brotherhood, and, behind them all, the Old One — desperate enemy of Nevyn.

I really enjoyed the slow build and Jill's gradual realization that the dweomer would be her future, no matter how much she wished otherwise. The climax to the Old One storyline was very much D&D in nature (no real surprise... Read More

A Time of Exile: Not as good as the first four books

A Time of Exile by Katharine Kerr

A Time of Exile, the first book in the second Deverry quartet, opens a number of years after the events in Daggerspell. Rhodry is getting older, but his Westfolk genes have given him long life and people are starting to mutter dweomer when they look at him. He stages his own death so that he is able to slip away from his life in Aberwyn. He meets Jill again when he heads into the lands of the Westfolk, the first time he has seen her since she left him for the dweomer. She is now a master, and refuses to consider the idea of a relationship between them.

The rest of the novel takes place in the past with the Westfolk and Aderyn taking centre stage. I like the way that in each of the Deverry books you never know how much time you will spend in the present or past.

In gen... Read More

A Time of Omens: Treading water

A Time of Omens by Katharine Kerr

A Time of Omens, the second book of the second Deverry quartet, is no more than a competent entry. Despite the easy reading, it took me days to get through and I really struggled at times to muster much interest in the doings of Rhodry.

Rhodry spends a number of years wandering in the Westlands, integrating himself into the lives of the Elcyion Lacar. Jill has gone seeking the remnant of the Elven race that fled south when the Hordes destroyed their homelands. We spend a lot of time in Evandar's dreamlike world, but because he doesn’t feel compassion or understand human emotions, I don’t find him endearing and can’t enjoy his storyline. We get the obligatory visit to a past incarnation of Rhodry (this time a continuation of the timeline where Maryn is become High King of all Deverry), and the book fini... Read More

Days of Blood and Fire: Disappointed

Days of Blood and Fire (US) or A Time of War (UK) by Katharine Kerr

A Time of War (Days of Blood and Fire in the US) is the third book in the secondDeverry quartet. Here all the action takes place in the present — we meet the Rhiddaer folk and the Gel Da'Thae (in the form of Jahdo and Meer) who quest to Deverry in search of Meer's brother. When they find him, they discover he is part of a major plot dreamt up by Alshandra in order to regain her daughter. At the same time Jill charges Rhodry to find the only weapon that will help the Deverrians in their war against the Horsekin and Alshandra's evil followers.

I was disappointed in A Time of War — I feel as though Kerr has lost her way a little. One of the high points of her first quartet is the fact that the storyline flits back and forth in time, deepening your affection ... Read More

Days of Air and Darkness (A Time of Justice): Losing interest

Days of Air and Darkness (A Time of Justice) by Katharine Kerr

With Days of Air and Darkness / A Time of Justice, Katharine Kerr wraps up The Westlands Cycle. It is a fairly decent final book, bringing a number of ongoing stories together and finishing things decently. With that said, it felt a little soulless to me — with her first four books, Kerr made the characters come alive and I had a lot of interest in their doings. Gradually I am losing interest in Rhodry and co.

In this novel we head back in time for a while, and that section was by far the most gripping. We meet a previous incarnation of Raena, the raven-woman, known in those times as Lady Mallona. It is no accident that my favourite part of the book coincides with us reading about Jill and Rhodry while they rode the long road as silver daggers. I far preferred those two charact... Read More

The Red Wyvern: A return to form

The Red Wyvern by Katharine Kerr

The Red Wyvern is the first book in a new cycle of novels set in Deverry by Katharine Kerr, and as such new readers can start out at this point. I would recommend vehemently, though, that they do not since a number of storylines from prior novels come together or are referenced in this novel.

For the first time we drift in time forwards rather than backwards, albeit for a short time, when we discover that Haen Marn is adrift in time as well as space. A soldier from a more modern Scotland is cast into the mythical isle for a night, showing us that Angmar is pregnant with Rhodry's child.

The majority of the novel takes place in the past though, continuing the tale of the civil war that tore Deverry in two — where Maryn becomes the High King under Nevyn's tutelage. The story is concentrated on Lillorigga (who we know in the current times as N... Read More

The Black Raven: Kerr writes the past so beautifully

The Black Raven by Katharine Kerr

The Black Raven is the second book in the Dragon Mage sequence of Deverry from Katharine Kerr. Once again, we spend the majority of the book in the past, exploring Lillorigga's burgeoning dweomer power and her relationship to the various souls she is destined to encounter again when she becomes Niffa in the future. At the moment, it is fairly confusing trying to keep straight who is who in both the past and the current incarnations. The only person who I can really keep straight is Maddyn the bard (in the past) becoming Rhodry Maelwaedd (in the present), and this is due to the silver rose ring.

Once again, I would urge anyone interested in this book to start at the beginning of the series (starting with Daggerspell Read More

The Fire Dragon: Best Deverry book

The Fire Dragon by Katharine Kerr

In The Fire Dragon we spend about half of our time in the past, concluding the storyline concerning Lillorigga, princess Bellyra, Maddyn the bard, and the prince Maryn. The second half of the book shifts the plot forwards concerning Rhodry, Dallandra, Niffa, Raena, and the dragon Arzosah.

In my opinion The Fire Dragon is by far the best book in the whole Deverry series. I was gripped throughout. Of necessity (considering the curse of the dweomer tablet), the first half of the story was bleak and heartbreaking. A number of my very favourite characters from this particular timeline came to fairly dire ends, which left me close to tears. Each of the various characters was treated with respect, except for Maryn and Oggyn — by the end of this section, it became very easy to hate both o... Read More

The Gold Falcon: Starts a new Deverry sequence

The Gold Falcon by Katharine Kerr

With The Gold Falcon, Katharine Kerr is starting a new phase in the Deverry series. We move on fifty years or so from the climactic ending of The Fire Dragon, and times have changed. The Horsekin have started marauding the Deverry border, killing the men and enslaving the women. There is a fragile alliance between the Deverry folk, the Rhiddaer, and the West Folk (Kerr's version of elves). And Alshandra's repute as a goddess is growing, Raena now considered a martyr to the cause.

Our main dweomer workers who hold the book together here are Dallandra and Salamander, who has fought hard to retrieve his sanity. The latter rescues two young lads from the slaughter of their village by Horsekin, and takes them to the sanctuary of Tieryn Cadryc's dun. Neb, the older of the... Read More

The Spirit Stone: Don’t miss out on this epic!

The Spirit Stone by Katharine Kerr

The Spirit Stone is the fifth book in the Dragon Mage sequence by Katharine Kerr. The events in this book follow on directly from those in The Gold Falcon. The joint armies of Westfolk, Deverry men, and Mountain Folk are mustering in order to put Zakh Gral (the Horsekin fortress) to the sword. This time round we leave the stories of Branna and Neb, who remain behind at the dun. Instead Salamander and Dallandra come to the fore — dealing with a group of Gel da Thae who have been banished for using dweomer by those who follow Alshandra; finding and trying to discover the secrets of the black pyramid and the white; and trying to cure Rori's wounds.

I enjoyed The Spirit Stone, finding a number of new story strands to enjoy and seeing how Ker... Read More

The Shadow Isle: Penultimate Deverry

The Shadow Isle by Katherine Kerr

We're finally reaching the end of the Deverry saga with The Shadow Isle, the penultimate book in the series. There is a sense of Katharine Kerr pulling together all those strands to finish off the series effectively, but some mysteries are still to be resolved. One thing I am glad of is that I don't actually know what Kerr will do to finish the story — although the Horsekin are currently 'evil', there has been enough switching sides and distinctions made between Horsekin and Gel da Thae for us to realize that no one is outright evil and everybody can be redeemed. In fact, this has been a theme running through the whole Deverry sequence — the idea that all beings (whether human, dwarf, Elcyion Lacar, Horsekin) have the ability to turn to good.

The Shadow Isle picks up where the p... Read More

The Silver Mage: Disappointing end to Deverry

The Silver Mage by Katharine Kerr

In The Silver Mage, the fifteenth book in the very long-running Deverry series, Katharine Kerr seeks to wrap up those last few plot points and bring the sequence to a resounding end.

Oh dear. I've followed this series faithfully, to the extent of doing a full re-read in preparation of the release of this final book, and I am more than disappointed with the way Kerr has finished things off.

This series has been limping along for a while, but every now and again Kerr would produce a book that sparkled. This compelled me to keep on reading, but sadly it was rare that Kerr would produce two great books in a row and none of her later books have lived up to the promise of those first four novels.

In this book we deal mainly with Rhodry's storyline. The other ... Read More

License to Ensorcell: Unusual, not without issues

License to Ensorcell by Katharine Kerr

Nola O’Grady is a psychic who works for a government agency that officially doesn’t exist. Her agency is called in when there’s a case involving the forces of Chaos – like the one that Israeli agent Ari Nathan is currently trying to solve for Interpol. Someone is murdering werewolves, and somehow traveling between the scenes of the crimes without being seen by any witnesses. Nola and Ari are thrown together on the case and soon learn that the victims all knew each other and that Nola’s late brother Patrick was murdered by the same culprit.

Katharine Kerr creates a host of interesting characters, starting with Nola’s eccentric (and psychic) Irish Catholic family. The setting is fun; Kerr makes great use of San Francisco landmarks such as the Portals of the... Read More

Water to Burn: Intriguing world, sparkle-free romance

Water to Burn by Katharine Kerr

Katharine Kerr’s License to Ensorcell was an uneven but unique entry into the urban fantasy subgenre. It began as an interesting paranormal whodunit with some annoying acronyms, then took a sharp turn and became a story of alternate universes (also known here as deviant world levels). The addition of the alternate-universe material made License to Ensorcell more original than many of its peers and introduced a poignant subplot involving the heroine’s teenage brother, but also made the mystery make less sense. When I finished, though, I was certain that the Nola O’Grady series had a lot of potential. Water to Burn, the second installment in the series, expands upon the characters and concepts introduced in the first book, and lives up to the aforementioned potential.

Again we have a murder mystery —... Read More

Out of Avalon: An Anthology of Old Magic and New Myths

Out of Avalon: An Anthology of Old Magic and New Myths by Jennifer Roberson

Out of Avalon: An Anthology of Old Magic and New Myths is an anthology for everyone who loves re-takes on the Arthurian legends, and especially those readers who loved The Mists of Avalon and are seeking more of the same sort of retellings, laced with gender politics, religious issues, and romance.

As in all anthologies, some of the stories are to my taste, some aren't, and there is probably something for everyone. In my opinion, the stunner of the bunch is Rosemary Edghill's "Prince of Exiles." Set among bloodthirsty warlords rather than knights-n-ladies, it is narrated by Ator (Arthur)'s bitter illegitimate son, as he unfolds his intricate plan for revenge against his father. It's a darkly engrossing story until you get to the l... Read More

More speculative fiction by Katharine Kerr

Resurrection Katharine KerrResurrection — (1992) Publisher: Resurrected after her mysterious death, former Air Force Captain and pilot Tiffany Owen walks back through the doors to the world in which she died and attempts to restore her lost memory.fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Freeze Frames — (1994) Publisher: The first book of a grand, mystical family saga tells the story of Maggie Corey’s descendants, five generations of mothers and daughters from various imaginary Californias who are stalked and defended by the men around them.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPalace — (1996) With Mark Kreighbaum. Publisher: Bestselling author Katharine Kerr joins with Mark Kreighbaum to present a vivid, alluring and terrifying world of the future.  They call it Palace, the capital of a planet located in a region of space known as the Pinch.  Here a bitter Lep outcast has been hired to murder two humans: Arno, the son of the Master of the Cyberguild, and Vida, a young woman destined for sensual slavery in the Pleasure Sect.  Arno is on the track of strange anomalies in the Map, the cyberspace repository of knowledge.  And Vida has powers that could change Palace forever.  As Arno goes into hiding to escape the assassin, Vida seeks refuge at Government House, the corrupt center of authority, where betrayal is a way of life and death.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSnare — (2003) Publisher: The author of the beloved Deverry series (Dragonspell, Darkspell, and The Red Wyvern) turns her hand to a new kind of tale. On the planet known as Snare, the descendants of Islamic fundamentalist emigrants have created beautiful enclaves, where they can sit on a patio enjoying green grass and “true-roses,” but the nomadic tribes live in a much harsher landscape. Where the grass is purple, the trees are orange, and the huge and dangerous sentient Cha’Meech lizards roam the landscape. Idres Warkannan and his companions seek to find the only man who can redeem their Islamic civilization from its despotic ruler and restore justice to the population. Zayn Hassan, refugee from the despot’s service, finds himself living among the tribes of the “comnee,” where Healer and Spirit Rider Ammadin, seeing the dangers all around her, is beginning to doubt the gods who are her only protection. To save herself and her people, Ammadin journeys eastward into war, intrigue, and adventure — and finds more than she bargained for on all counts.