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The King's Deryni: A Novel of the Deryni


The King's Deryni: A Novel of the Deryni

It’s been eight long years since Katherine Kurtz last walked us through Gwynedd. With THE KING’S DERYNI, she ties up some storylines, explores history, and completes her prequel series centered on Brion Haldane and Alaric Morgan.

Brion Haldane has ascended to the throne of Gwynedd. The 18-year-old king is immediately saddled with the burdens of rule, but also with the treachery and shadows that lurk behind every corner. From his first breath as king, he must concern himself with seeking a queen, needing an heir to take his place should those who seek to do him ill succeed in their plots, which are already set in motion. In addition to usurpers from within, Brion must seek to quell growing rebellion, keep a watchful eye on his increasingly hostile neighbors, and deal with a generational loss of nobles and knights, along with an increase in anti-Deryni prejudice.

"As you would expect, Kurtz writes beautifully, and she engages her readers with her deft accounts of history, genealogy and medieval ritual."

In the meantime, seven-year-old Alaric Morgan is bound to Brion, sworn by his father to serve as the king’s Deryni, and now he must come to court. Alaric knows very little of his abilities --- the magic wielded by Deryni that will aid his new lord but also will target him for death by those who do not trust and have never trusted these men of magic. Throughout the seven-year span of the book, we see Alaric grow, both as a man and as a Deryni. With that growth comes great dangers as he follows his road to becoming the Duke of Corwyn. Alaric, of course, is only half Deryni, and so he is a target on two fronts.

This is an interesting book to take up, much like its predecessors, IN THE KING’S SERVICE and CHILDE MORGAN. For readers of Kurtz’s long-running line of Deryni novels, it is not so much something new as it is a history book. The events detailed within, and the lives of Brion and Alaric, are essentially already known as they always have been touchpoints contained in previous works. Coming in, you know the outcomes for these characters because you’ve learned about them in previous books. In that sense, THE KING’S DERYNI is something of a disappointment.

Ultimately, that won’t matter one bit because Kurtz is such a gifted writer that even though you know the path to take, the true story is in making the journey alongside these characters. As you would expect, Kurtz writes beautifully, and she engages her readers with her deft accounts of history, genealogy and medieval ritual. Her talents as a storyteller are strong enough to keep the pages turning and to make that already known history entertaining and fresh enough to revisit. There is something to be said for following Brion and Alaric through their trials and tribulations as opposed to just hearing them secondhand from other characters. And the characters within THE KING’S DERYNI are certainly well done, from Brion and Alaric to the scene-stealing Sir Trelawney.

Which brings us to readership. THE KING’S DERYNI is not a proper starting place for this world. Though it and the two preceding novels are history and thus come before much of the other worlds chronologically, it is not wise to begin here. Kurtz recommends, and I fully agree, that readers should start at the beginning of her publication order, and set off in the world of the Deryni with DERYNI RISING. Can you start here? Sure, but your experience would be lessened because you haven’t yet embraced and explored the richness of the world. Caring for the world and its people only makes visiting the history that much sweeter.

This will prove more problematic, however, because much of Kurtz’s back catalog is out of print. The original trilogy is available in digital format, as is this more recent trilogy. The only other available book is KING KELSON’S BRIDE, which stood apart from any series but served as a bridge. In order to undertake the recommended reading order, some hunting would need to be done through used bookstores and local libraries. That hunt, I assure you, is worth it.

Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on December 19, 2014

The King's Deryni: A Novel of the Deryni
by Katherine Kurtz