The Bishop’s Heir is the first book in Katherine Kurtz’s trilogy called THE HISTORIES OF KING KELSON but it’s a direct sequel to High Deryni, the third book in her CHRONICLES OF DERYNI trilogy. (Did you get that?) To get the most out of The Bishop’s Heir, you really need to read THE CHRONICLES OF DERYNI first. This review of The Bishop’s Heir will contain a couple of spoilers for the original trilogy.
King Kelson’s battle with the church is over… or so he thinks. Archbishop Loris, the man responsible for the Church’s persecution of the Deryni and for the excommunication of Morgan and Duncan, Kelson’s trusted advisors, has been sent to live out the rest of his life in confinement. Kelson, Morgan, and Duncan should now be free to run the country with the help of a Church led by more tolerant clergy. However, trouble is brewing in Meara, a district of Gwynedd that used to be a sovereign nation. A descendant of Meara’s royal ruling family is eager to make herself queen and is fomenting rebellion against King Kelson. She finds eager allies with those of the clergy who are unhappy with Kelson’s Deryni heritage and the way he treated Archbishop Loris.
By the time Kelson discovers what’s going on, the Mearan conspiracy is well under way. In their efforts to thwart the rebels, Kelson et al. take some major hits. There are battles, assassination attempts, kidnappings, daring escapes and rescues, and brutal murders.
This time they are aided by Dhugal MacArdry, a young border lord who was fostered with Kelson when they were boys. At first Dhugal is just what he seems — a young man who loves his clan and who Kelson can trust — but it gradually becomes clear that Dhugal is more than he seems, something that surprises him just as much as it surprises everyone else. Other new characters include a love interest for Kelson. At the end, tragedy strikes, both personal and political. I’m interested to find out what happens next.
Readers who have enjoyed the DERYNI novels so far will probably be pleased with The Bishop’s Heir. There is plenty of action and political intrigue, though I admit that I zoned out during the numerous liturgical ceremonies in this novel. These, with accompanying chanting and reciting and feasting, go on far too long and I just can’t imagine anybody enjoying them. Similarly, the scenes in which Kelson or Morgan is delving into someone’s mind (usually Dhugal’s) are likewise long and dull.
Another complaint is that there are a couple of major events — Kelson’s romance and a discovery and confession made by Duncan — which could have been used for an enormous emotional impact but which fell a little flat. Still, there is plenty of emotional resonance in The Bishop’s Heir and it will no doubt carry over to the next novel, The King’s Justice.
Nick Sullivan narrates Audible Studio’s version of The King’s Bishop. This is a change for the series; Jeff Woodman narrated the first trilogy. I was a little disappointed because I really loved Woodman’s performance and I had gotten used to his voices for the characters, but Nick Sullivan did a fine job. I don’t think he’s quite as good as Woodman, but I quickly adapted and ended up enjoying his performance. The audio version is 14 hours long.
It’s hard to think of an author who has done a better job than Katherine Kurtz of creating a world that is as meticulously researched, historically accurate, and heartbreakingly tragic. The Bishop’s Heir is splendid as it depicts the reign of a young King, newly come to power, and his struggles to become who he wishes to be and not what others would have him be.
Kurtz writes with such expertise in depicting the world and conditions that the characters live in, that you feel like you are truly there. It’s gritty and dark and entirely realistic. The characters are flawed, but that is the beauty of the craftsmanship because they are all the better for being something other than the infallible heroes that so often bedeck epic fantasy.
Kurtz’s depiction of the role of Church, politics, and intrigue are perfectly intertwined. The very title of this book is controversial enough to pique the interest of any student of human history. I really enjoyed that Kurtz so closely emulates what really happened, but still blends in the fantastic and sets it some place other than our world.
Prepare to be entertained and educated by The Bishop’s Heir. This is what we all hope to read and so seldom find.
The Deryni Chronicles — (1970-2014) Publisher: For more than 30 years, The Deryni Chronicles have transported readers to a world of secret sorcery and courtly intrigue. Deryni Rising, the first book in the series, launched Katherine Kurtz’s phenomenal, bestselling career. Now, with this special edition, including a new introduction by the author, fans of the series can revel anew in the dawning of an epic…
The Chronicles of the Deryni (1970-1973) (about King Kelson, Morgan, Duncan)
The Histories of King Kelson (1984-2000) (about King Kelson, Morgan, Duncan)
The Legends of Camber of Culdi (1976-1981)
The Heirs of Saint Camber (1989-1994)
Childe Morgan (2004-2014)