Katherine Kurtz is an author who never shies away from twisted plots that often provide readers with the opposite of what they want or expect. But that doesn’t mean that readers will abandon her. In a fantasy world akin to our world’s tenth century, with the addition of a race having supernatural and magical abilities, a tension of treachery broods like a clammy fog to the landscape. It seems that victory for the righteous can never long be savoured until treason and betrayal festers to precipitate a calamitous vengeance.
This is the second novel of ‘The Heirs of Saint Camber,’ the eleventh of the fifteen Deryni novels* to be published but, confusingly, the fifth if read in chronological order (which I recommend). In the first novel of this trilogy, ‘The Harrowing of Gwynedd,’ the oldest of the late King Cinhil’s young sons, Alroy, had been drugged and manipulated by his self-serving power hungry Regents to do their bidding. Their primary task was to suppress the members of the Deryni race and legislate the removal of their rights to land, liberty and the sustenance of life. Alroy dies, having been weak and sickly for some time. After Alroy reached his age of majority, his Regents had lost some of their ability to act freely. His twin, Prince Javan, sympathetic to the Deryni, had temporarily sequestered himself for three years in a monastery, preparing to emerge to become king at the passing of Alroy. Archbishop Hubert, who sponsored Javan to assume a priestly vocation, had assumed that the youngest, immature and more pliable prince, Rhys Michael, would become king since Javan had chosen a life of religious devotion. But Javan has a surprise for Hubert and his courtly allies, he is determined to become king. Javan also has his allies and his younger brother has no interest in kingship for himself. These events lay the foundation for this novel. It becomes a year of incessant games of brinkmanship between King Javan, his allies and the ‘good’ Deryni and Archbishop Hubert, his allies and the ‘bad’ Deryni—games that frequently end in tortures, murders and battles to win and keep power through treasonous and brutal means.
Kurtz is usually big on rituals and ceremony in her books but in this novel she does not go to extremes. The book has loads of drama and presents both adversarial sides vividly through dialogue and narrative. We get to know the characters intimately, how they think, reason and plot to win power and keep it. This is an excellently crafted intense and suspenseful installment of the tragically heroic Deryni saga.
*a sixteenth novel ‘The King’s Deryni’ is scheduled for publication December, 2014
on June 20, 2000
Kathryn Kurtz takes us back to the world after Camber and before Kelson. Young Prince Javan Haldane was led naively once to trust--or at least underestimate--the Regents who took over government of Gwynedd in the name of his sickly brother Alroy. Now sixteen (and legally of age), Javan is prepared to rule in his own right and determined not to make the same mistake again. Alroy's death sets off a climactic fight for the throne, or at least for the power behind it. The freedom of Javan and his brother Rhys Michael--even their lives--depends on his success. The Regents have had five years to entrench their power. Javan has only his wits, his convictions, and the help of a resourceful but dwindling group of secret Deryni. He is not used to manipulation. But in this kind of a war, the pawns may be the most important players...
I found the premise of this novel thoroughly enjoyable. And frightening. I, like Rhys Michael, was surprised by the sheer viciousness of the Regents' tactics. I can almost believe that Rhys Michael had cause to think them more benign than they were. Javan is an interesting martyr--so rock-solid in his convictions and so coldly calculating at times, mixing these qualities liberally on occasion with great warmth and discretion. I walked away from the book shaken, with a void in me, wondering what went wrong and sent Javan, Revan, Tavis, and so many others to their deaths. That is definitely a mark of good storytelling.
Kurtz may have taken things a little too far, and I still have to wonder if Javan shouldn't have had more control and ability to put the Regents down, no matter what their personal forces might have done. And I wonder, too, if the distinctions between right and wrong, between Javan and his opponants, are so great sometimes. In the end, it all comes down to Rhys Michael's stupidity (gullibility for those of you who feel more sympathetic to him than I do in this book). But Javan's story still packs a welcome punch for all fantasy-lovers.
on October 4, 1996
The book starts off slowly, as Alroy (Javan's older brother)
becomes victim to what sounds like tuberculosis and the drugs
that the regents had been giving him for years, thereby sealing
Javan's emerging powers when Javan slips on the Ring of Fire.
As the book progressed, I found myself drawn further into the
world of the Deryni; her characterizations are VERY precise, and
the people of the books seem quite real. The treachery of Hubert MacInnis and his cohorts was expected, but that they would stoop
to what finally happened to Javan near the end of the book was an
unpleasant surprise indeed! I had seen that something of the order
was in the making when Rhys Michael was abducted, when the pace of
the story accelerated to high gear. Many things happened in this
book that I do not wish to spoil for the other readers. All in all,
a fine read indeed...
on May 17, 1997
In King Javan's Year, we see a flame of hope for the Deryni people of overcoming their oppression. Will it be snuffed out is the question, as King Javan faces enemies everywhere and allies few. The King is constantly in danger in this desperate struggle. The enemy is strong and ruthless, and the King cannot show any weakness. He must not make any mistakes either, but his luck and time are running short. What will happen? Read this spell bounding fanatsy triller and find out
on December 22, 1999
Katherine Kurtz takes her writing to a new level in this novel. Book two of the heirs of Saint Camber series, she gives the readers the feeling of hope for the characters. She definately takes a sad story and makes it beautiful by showing the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, and love. Again, this is a must read for anyone who is a fantasy fan, or even just someone who loves a friend.