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 Niffa, the ratter’s daughter) and her mother Lady Merodda — the person who becomes Raena, the Black Raven, and causes Rhodry such heartache. Here we discover why Raena and Rhodry’s Wyrds are so tangled.
The Red Wyvern is a great return to form for Kerr. I was somewhat disappointed in the last few Deverry novels — Kerr seemed very much to be writing by the numbers. Here her writing comes alive again — with intrigue, scheming, battle, fair maidens, dweomer mysteries, and high adventure. I loved the character of Lillorigga, who came blessed with good sense and honour.
I was somewhat annoyed with Kerr’s descriptive passages that seem lifted from previous books. On the one hand you could say that it reinforces the effect she wishes to create, but I find the copy and paste technique a little lazy.
Once again I sighed and slowed down my reading during each portion of the book that dealt with Evandar and his brother Shaetano, who has now taken over where Alshandra left off. I can understand that the Fae — as these Guardians seem based on — live in a dreamlike Otherland, and I accept that Kerr might well be writing about them in a capable manner, but it slows down the plot and I am bored of their antics. I am particularly frustrated with Evandar’s endless scheming that (as Dallandra says) brings naught but hurt to the people they affect.
In fact, all of the book that has dweomer in it directly, I find fairly tiresome. Kerr’s strongest ability is to bring to very vivid life the Celtic medieval world. She writes extremely capably about life in a dun; her battle scenes are fascinating and realistically chaotic; and her strong female characters are countered heavily by the responsibilities they hold in earlier times (e.g. never being part of councils, doing all the sewing for the people of the dun, always being above reproach in terms of producing an heir for their lord).
That element of Kerr’s writing was heavily present and hence I award it four stars, and look forward again to the next in the Deverry cycle.
Deverry — (1986-2009) Publisher: 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 seers in recent years — a tale of bold adventure and timeless love, perilous battle and pure magic.
Act one: Deverry — In the UK, the third book is Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood, and the fourth book is Dragonspell: The Southern Sea.
Act two: The Westlands — in the UK, the third book is A Time of War and the fourth book is A Time of Justice.
Act three: The Dragon Mage
Act four: The Silver Wyrm — in the UK, these are continuations of Act Three: The Dragon Mage.