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Deverry Cycle #1


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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 righted 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 series in recent years--a tale of bold adventure and timeless love, perilous battle and pure magic. For long-standing fans of Deverry and those who have yet to experience this exciting series, Daggerspell is a rare and special treat.

454 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published September 1, 1986

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About the author

Katharine Kerr

77 books1,491 followers
Born in Ohio, 1944. Moved to San Francisco Bay Area in 1962 and has lived there ever since. Katharine Kerr has read extensively in the fields of classical archeology, and medieval and dark ages history and literature, and these influences are clear in her work. Her epic Deverry series has won widespread praise and millions of fans around the world.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 597 reviews
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51.7k followers
October 2, 2022
I first read this book over twenty-five years ago and have just finished my first re-reading of it.

Re-reading can be a troubling experience. Many of the fantasy books I loved from my teens and twenties have not withstood the test of time. They've grown dated either by style and focus, or simply by the quality of the writing. And of course as much as general reading tastes and expectations have changed, I've changed too. Dump a few decades on a man and that'll happen.

*However*, I'm very pleased to report that this book has aged extremely well. Setting the story aside for a moment, Kerr is an excellent writer of prose. She can paint a picture or evoke strong emotion with a few deft lines. Add to that an intriguing imagination and strong world building, and you have the foundation of a great book.

To top it off, the story is engaging, exciting, and unpredictable.

The only thing that may put people off, and did give me pause, is the very thing that becomes the book's (and the series') strength. This is a story that revolves around reincarnation (into new people) and tracks a small group of souls over many centuries.

The first manifestation of this is when about 20% if the way in you are hauled unceremoniously from the story and characters you're enjoying into a whole new story with new characters and no obvious connection. At this point it feels a bit difficult to muster any enthusiasm for these new people and their woes. But, of course it slowly becomes clear that these are the same people and that we are seeing the start of the entanglement that keeps them reappearing in each other's lives down the centuries.

The tale encompasses quite a few battles but the warfare and sword fights are never the real focus and while well handled aren't detailed in terms of violence and gore. This is a story about characters, relationships, magic, and confronting seemingly insurmountable problems.

It's really good. And from memory the series continues strongly through the next half dozen and more books.

You should give it a try!

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Profile Image for carol..
1,566 reviews8,211 followers
April 15, 2012
Kerr's Deverry series is a classic in the epic fantasy field, and it's no surprise why. World building is excellent, detailed and consistent; she does an amazing job of bringing early, almost primitive, Welsh culture to life, albeit a culture with more magical tendencies than our own. From a village tavern to the women's hall in a lord's dun, to riding patrol through a forest, it feels earthy and real. The magical system is a kind of sophisticated spiritualism that is vital to development of the plot.

One of my favorite things about the series is the complexity of character development. We witness people struggling with personal and political issues, occasionally failing, but occasionally overcoming challenges with grace. I particularly enjoy how women are developed; though the culture is at heart sexist, we see the many ways women take power for themselves at different levels of society, from the common lass Jill to the lady of the dun, Lovyan. Also notable is Kerr's refusal to glorify violence, even as one or two of her characters are some of the most feared swordsmen around. An additional noteworthy aspect is that Kerr includes non-nobility classes without glorifying their struggles or minimizing the role they play in maintaining the nobility's lifestyle.

One of the central concepts to this series is the idea of 'Wyrd,' an aspect of destiny combined with reincarnation. Characters are not completely fated to a particular course of action, but will find themselves repeating ill-negotiated challenges until their soul gets it right. The central characters in this series are drawn together across space and time because four hundred years ago, family obligations, injustice and tragedy occurred in such a way as to bind their threads together. Nevyn, a sorcerer known as a 'dweomermaster,' is the only one of the people in this situation who is aware of the cycle of Wyrd, and one of his goals is to connect with the others as they enter their new life cycles and correct his mistakes.

What adds depth and complexity to the overall plot is that the characters are working out their Wyrd in three different time periods. As we go back in time, we also experience the culture in earlier forms, allowing the reader to get the sense of development of society. Somewhat unfortunately, names are in dialect and it lends itself to confusion in keeping track of each person and their three names. The first time through, I found it confusing, but I was younger then. It's a shame I only discovered the reincarnation end notes after finishing--it might have helped me keep some of the names/personalities straight during the three periods covered. On re-read, the time changes flow better, and the situations playing out slightly differently in the second time period adds to the sense of tragedy to the first and hope for the third.

Truly a great read for those who like complex epic fantasy. Star one: world-building. Star two: character development. Star three: nicely developed plot with what could have been very conventional fantasy--yes, there are serfs and nobles, and battles, and elves and even a dwarf, but they are done in a way that feels real, and emphasizes the loss as much as the magic. Star four: complexity in all of the aforementioned categories. The beginning Deverry series achieves a rare pathos, and likely spoiled me for many subsequent fantasies.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...

April 24, 2012
Daggerspell is an epic fantasy novel built on the idea of reincarnation. If we have failed to fulfill our destiny in one life, we are compelled to return to this life in another form to do that. As I read this novel, I was confronted with my feelings about that inalienable destiny. There are some people that you have in your life that seem only to bring pain and hardship, and the comfort is that when you leave this life, you leave that pain they cause you behind. In this novel, that is not the case. And more importantly, a person cannot run from themselves and the anguish their own actions will deliver them. In some ways, that was a bitter pill to swallow as I read. The blessing in this novel was that one man, Nevyn, which sounds like ‘no one’ has lived through three lives and walks that anguished road with those people who he failed to help the first time.
Another integral part of this novel is the Welsh-like feel to their world. I’m not an expert on Welsh language, so if I’m wrong, I apologize. But it felt as though this novel used some of the Welsh language particulars and it felt pretty distinct and authentic to me. I was afraid that the names and the language would be an issue, but it wasn’t. After I read the novel, I read through the glossary, and surprisingly, I was able to discern what most of the terms meant through context.

The Characters:
Nevyn and Jill were standout characters for me. I felt deeply for Nevyn. The huge burden of seeing people he had cared for in the first go-round suffer through their Wyrd (destiny) again and again until they got it right. That was tough. I loved that he had followed his own destiny, not without loss or sacrifice, and had used this incredible skills as a dweomerman (magician/wizard) to help people and to fight for the forces of light. In the first life, he made a selfish choice, and it cost the life of a woman he loved. He had vowed to help her find her destiny, and it took him three life cycles to do it. That’s determination. Jill was young but she had substance and a strong heart. One of her choices in this novel gave me heartburn. For a romantic, I was surprised I didn’t want her to follow that path and go in another way. I’m glad that this worked out despite my apprehensions about it. Cullyn was also a compelling character. He had me worried a few times. He was a man who had one heck of a wyrd to work out, and it was a rough one. What I loved is that he was able to overcome that dark destiny through the power of his integrity and love for his daughter. Rhodry was a character that didn’t quite convince me he was worthy of Jill. He was a decent person, a little spoiled, but I didn’t feel he was Jill’s wyrd, at least not in a good way. I guess the author knows better than me about such things. In the first life cycle, it was like watching a car wreck before it happens, I mean literally. That really took me out of my comfort zones. I was actually shouting at the book, saying, “Please don’t do that.” It took some fortification to keep reading after that, but part of me couldn’t let go of this story because like any good fiction novel, it made me ask the central question. “What happens next?” I’m not a believer in reincarnation, but the way things work out for the characters in that life cycle kind of made me glad that it exists in this novel.

Magic and Magical Folks:
I loved that Jill could see and interact with the Wildfolk. Especially the cute gray gnome who was often her boon companion and her comfort through her tough young life. I liked this idea that those marked by the dweomer are able to perceive the Wildfolk. It was also interesting how many ‘normal’ folks feared the magic and many more didn’t even believe in it. It seemed strange to me since this felt so real, and their lives were deeply affected by the power of the magic around them. I appreciated how within this landscape of humanity there were pockets of legendary creatures, such as a dwarf metalsmith who gives Jill her silver dagger, and the Westfolk, who are actually elves. I really liked the elves!

My final thoughts:
I went into reading this cold. I had never heard of this book until it was recommended on the fantasy group. I saw it at the bookstore and thought, “Why not?” And I am glad I read it. I think the writing was strong, the storyline interesting, although a bit on the tragic side in some ways. It felt intricate and complex and deep, and that appeals to me. The idea of having to work out the consequences of the choices you make in life resonates with me, and for a foundation of a fantasy novel, it works surprisingly well. I think I would like to continue this series to see where Kerr takes this story and the characters next. I recommend it to readers who enjoy epic fantasy.
Profile Image for Gary .
200 reviews186 followers
December 16, 2019
This was a decent book- not spectacular, overwhelming or underwhelming. It was a good read that kept me fairly entertained. It was technically a reread, but since I recalled virtually nothing from my previous reading, it read like a first read. It is typical of the fantasy genre with the exception of the way the author uses reincarnation to weave the storyline through the lifetimes of the characters.
There is one character that is able to follow the others through various incarnations and track them down and recognize them. This naturally involves moving about a bit on a time scale which ordinarily annoys me in a plot, but it work here. Maybe it is the way the author tells the story that keeps it moving and feeing fresh. Typically, when a story goes and forth into flashbacks, maybe even using italics to emphasize the past, I don't care for it. It is interesting in this case, however, to see the same characters with new personalities, yet they still retain enough of their old personalities to still be distinguishable. They are clearly working out their wyrd, or fate, that they have created through past lifetimes in new interactions with people they have known before. This book was written in the late 80s when the New Age scene was beginning to move into the mainstream, and I am sure the author is at least slightly influenced by it. Authors can’t seem to help but be influenced by the socio-political and philosophical movements around the outside of them when they are writing, and this book is no exception.
The magic system is fairly well laid out and relies heavily on the idea of astral projection and shamanic type interaction with spirit beings. Everything has a pseudo-Celtic feel (which also emerged with the New Age movement in the late 80s) which is okay with me. I like the way the atmosphere blends with characters to create this story.
Overall, as I said earlier, this is not spectacular nor horrible- it is simply good.
Four Stars
Profile Image for Dani.
114 reviews14 followers
April 6, 2022
So I'm maybe 100 pages into this book and I don't know... My first mistake was reading this after Robin Hobb a woman who can really suck me in. I understand her characters and what they think and feel and most importantly why they make the choices they do.

I don't understand any of the choices these characters make. The book reads like its some weird out of body experience. I feel like a shadow or ghost reading about these characters. I get a vague sense of their emotions sometimes but mostly its like "huh? why did he do that?"

No really. Why did he kill his friend then let his sister go? That's some bipolar shit that I can't relate to at all. And its not like reading about incest is new to me. Its in a ton of fantasy and manga. But why?? Seriously!? What is this person thinking?? Do you know? Cause I don't.

Hopefully the writing improves but.... this book is rated so highly and so far I don't understand why.

Also: I have this tingly feeling I'm going to die and I don't want to die a virgin so sure I'll just let my bro fuck me in the woods IS NOT A REAL RESPONSE!!!! Who thinks like that!? Nobody!
Profile Image for Stef Rozitis.
1,506 reviews71 followers
January 20, 2018
Aspects of the world-building were cool (like the names and stuff), but apart from that there was little I could like about this book. Anyone who considers reading it might want a "trigger warning" that is glamorises abuse, rapey behaviours and portrays incest.

Over 500 pages is a big commitment to ask from a reader, and I would have liked the writing to be tighter and more to the point. There were several places where a word was used that seemed anachronistic to the time and type of culture being described, besides which the morality of the book (and it was big on morality) was contradictory and in places made no sense.

This brings me to gender. Apparently battle-lust is "natural" in a man but not in a woman. Apparently men are so emotional that the moment they are in any way inconvenienced or slightly insulted they draw and kill someone, even if that is a best friend. Meanwhile women, no matter what their skills, potential or desires in life may be, live only to find which man to centre themselves on, a point that is made explicit at p128, where Brangwen has to commit incest because any other man she could have centred herself on is unavailable (her brother Gerrent helps kill some of them off). Sexual attraction (always heterosexual) is portrayed as an irresistible, inevitable force that transcends time itself and bends men and women to its will (again and again as they are born anew).

On p130 we are told that "the one power allowed to her as a woman, to use her beauty and her body to bring her man to the place where he would listen to her instead of only to his whims." That goes as badly for the female characters as would be expected but seems to be accepted within the book as right. Even the slightly less drippy and irritating Jill is overly devoted to her brutal and abusive father (he "beats sense" into her nearly every time they appear together until she kills a man after which he "gives" her to a lord for a mistress), and she falls for a man who won't accept that "no" means "no" and begins a few of their encounters by forcing her. YUCK!!!

I would have liked the dweomer to be about something more interesting than who sleeps with whom. All women in the book were "beautiful" just as all men were bloodthirsty and entitled. The relationships were mostly toxic- men dominating "their" women, women subservient, fathers and sons at war with each other, brother hating brother...let alone the incest.

It is quite probable that in the 80s (when this book was published), publishers would not consider a book with more liberated or problematised gender roles, but it does not make for enjoyable reading. I will look out for something better in a genre that seems to have endless potential, but so rarely manages to bring out anything more than the tired old tropes.
Profile Image for Blodeuedd Finland.
3,431 reviews293 followers
August 14, 2018
I loved this series long ago, though I never did finish it cos the library never did get them all. I jumped at the chance to review the audiobook to get back into this world. I did not remember everything (srsly it was years ago, I read them in Swedish so I had to be like 11-13.) I loved Rhodri and I wanted him and Jill to be together foreeeever. That is all I know.

In the present we have Nevyn, an 400 year old "mage" who travels the land trying to right a wrong. This time (being older and all), I really got Nevyn. All he wanted was to finally after so long get it right. But every time something comes in his way. Poor old guy.

Then there is Jill who grows up on the road with her father Cullyn, a silverdagger (merc). Jill, I did see issues with her this time around. In her past lives everyone just falls for her. But, no, she is not perfect. I kept wondering why they can't find their own soulmates instead. I do like Jill, she was naive in a good way. Sweet and strong.

Then there is Rhodry, man, I bookcrushed on him in the olden days. Being older and wiser I see him in a different light. A spoiled lordling who likes to fool around with the lasses. But he does grow in the book and I respect him at the end. And you can not fight destiny.

Oh and then there is Cullyn...what on earth did I think about him in the olden days? *cringes* *past lives horrors* Here he is a good man, but yeah, you have to read it. This past life stuff does take dark turns.

They all come together at one point when the fighting begins. Something is rotten in the state of Deverry.

Then there are the past lives. In this book we get two. The story that started it all. A brother and sister, both engaged, then everything starts to unravel and there will be death. I always liked this story. It is dark and yes the prince is to blame, or is he. I do feel like the blame could be put on another ahole and not the one one would think.

The other past lives takes place after this one. Everyone is reborn and the souls are still angry...

Sometimes I think the past lives drama are the most interesting. Cos there is drama, passion and death.

One thing missing in the audiobook is the who was who. I did miss that. I remember constantly checking when I read them.

Awww, it was so lovely re'reading this book in a way. Re'listening. I felt happy getting to know them all again. It may be over 30 years old but it still works.

Narrator: Ruth Urqhart
I do like her! She fits really well and her accent works in this "Celtic " fantasy. I like how young she made Jill be. And everyone else too
Profile Image for Barry Mulvany.
319 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2018
That was a surprisingly good book. It's set in a Celtic/Gallic kind of alternate world in a fairly primitive society. Nobles and lords might only a have a few men at arms and a large battle involves only a few hundred people. It is quite cool to see these small scale battles rather than ones involving thousands of people. We have around five or six main POV characters, from nobles to mercenaries to healers.
What is really interesting is that in this world people have a 'Wyrd', a kind of fate that they need to work out and it can take many lifetimes to achieve. Your Wyrd can become entangled with others and actions in one life can have consequences in another. So with all characters here we spend most of our time in the 'current' timeline but we also have two other stories of their previous lives and we can see how their fates became entangled. It is really well done. All the characters are well written and sympathetic, even the bad guys.
For a story first published in 1987 I think it really holds its own. Yes there are elves and dwarves in it, but they honestly seem quite ordinary and don't have a huge part to play. It really is quite an original story and I don't recall reading anything like it which is refreshing. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series when I can as I'm very curious as to where it is going.
Profile Image for Aria  Tatiana .
111 reviews69 followers
March 24, 2012
The Deverry saga is a long fantasy saga, but the great thing is that the it is organized in cycles, the first one being the first 4 books ("The Deverry cycle"). And at the end of a cycle, you get a real ending.
So if you hesitate to buy this book, thinking that you'll have to wait too long to know the end, don't. You'll have a real ending at the end of book 4.

The story is set in an alternative 11th century, Kerr imagining a celtic culture having survived and evolved into the Middle Ages thanks to a group of Gaulish-like people having settled long ago in a new territory.

Our heroes are Jill, Rhodry, Cullyn and Nevyn. Rhodry is a young lord threatened with death by another lord and his army, for an unknown reason. Jill, orphan of mother since she was 7 but now a young adult, follows her father Cullyn on "the long road". He is a silver dagger, a mercenary, a dishonoured man kicked out from his warband and compelled to sell his service here and there. She too now is a silver dagger, probably the only girl having ever done that, but she has never known anything else. Nevyn is a very smart and old herbman. Or rather, this is how everyone sees him. He is actually a four-century year old sorcerer, or more precisely "dweomermaster".
The dweomer is at the center of The Deverry Cycle. This is the name given to magic. A magic common folk is afraid of or don't believe in, but that is truly known only by long trained dweomermasters. The dweomer is a very spiritual magic: it gives you the possibility to use telepathy with another trained mind, to meditate, to see omens, etc. A dweomermaster is also able to see and communicate with the Wildfolk (gnomes, sprites, undines or salamanders), elemental spirits.
Spirits that Jill is also able to see, an ability denoting her predisposition for dweomer. And Nevyn mission, among others, is precisely to bring her to the dweomer and to train her, but he cannot force her. He can drop hints, but the choice must entirely come from her. A difficult task, that unfortunately he has failed to accomplish several times in the past, when Jill's soul lived in other bodies... And he will have no rest until he accomplishes it.

The great originality of course of this saga is to make the readers discover in long flashbacks the past lives of our heroes. This creates a very deep psychology of characters and is just fascinating. The depiction of both the system of magic and the spiritual world, and the fictional 11th celtic culture are enthralling. Kerr has obviously done quite an amount of research on both these subjects before beginning her saga. I've always liked it when you can relate fantasy or fantastic works to history, and this is definitely the case here. I admire the blending of historical references and pure imagination.

The thing I also completely dig is Kerr's writing, and I definitely don't understand why some reviewers here criticized it. One thing for sure: her sytle is literary, and I guess some people find it tedious because they're only used to read books with very basic styles. However, it is not difficult at all to follow her writing, which is very visual, direct and lively. No overlong boring passages, every sentence hits its target.

I saw some people complained about the incest and the sexual scenes. It's true that Kerr doesn't hesitate in taking risks with her story and she explores new territories. And this is really enjoyable. You read something new, something daring. Anyway Kerr's writing is always classy and careful, and the books remain material suitable for teens, there's nothing "sordid" here. The "sexual scenes" (not yet in Book 1) are necessary because a dark character is involved in ritual sex, and later a protagonist is sexually abused. Kerr is not showing our heroes making out. Those few "sex scenes" are here to serve as key points in the story, and are not described in visual details.
Concerning the incest, that is at the center of Book 1, there is no scabrous details, and that people would stop reading the book just because it talks about it is very weird.

To finish, I really recommend this book to everyone!! I lent the first book to my best friend and to one of my teen student, and they both loved it!! They bought all the others! :D
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,562 reviews2,939 followers
April 10, 2019
* This was my Care of Magical Creatures read for the OWLs Readathon as it has a land animal on the cover *

I picked this book up really hoping for a classic fantasy that defied some of the classic fantasy tropes I have seen so many times. It's written by a female author, and therefore I hoped to see more ladies at the forefront and doing something different, but actually we only really have one lady who's different from the rest and she is called Jill.

In this story we follow quite a few characters, Jill, Nevyn, Rhodry and more. We're also following a few different timelines and incarnations of these particular people as they are reborn into the world again. Nevyen is a sorcerer of a sort, he is able to manipular the dweomer which is a power that involved the wildfolk and the magic of the world. It's a power that has faded with the passing of time, but Nevyn is rather an old character.
Jill is the bastard daughter of a Silver Sword and although her parents both love her, when the story starts they are down on their luck, and she is a young girl. She grows up admiring her father and he frequently visits her and her mother with gold to support them and his love to keep them going, but when her mother is ill and dies Jill has to travel with her father and learn how to live the life of a Silver Sword.
Rhodry is the noble lord of the story who has more to his lineage than even he knew. The point where we meet him he is battling with a dark power and fighting the fight against the evil of this world whilst also wooing the ladies around him. He and Jill hit it off and things go from there.
There are plenty of other characters too, but they didn't resonate with me or make as much of an impact on the story as a whole so I am not going to list them all. Suffice to say there is a very classic good vs evil battle here at the centre of it all.

What I liked was Jill, she and her skills and way of thinking were refreshing for classic fantasy, however I had issue with the way that all of the men around her, even those who knew her skills like her father, were quite content for their stereotypes and preconceived notions to take over and belittle her choices. She is a character born out of her time as she is so different to most of the ladies we meet, but she's someone who, with the support of the surrounding men, could have been propped up far more than she was. I got frustrated that she was so often held back from achieving her potential as she was female.

Overall, the story was not bad but it was a predictable one and although I liked the magic and Jill I found some bits to be super frustrating too. I would give it a 2.5*s so very middle of the road and I am not sure that I would continue on with the series as it just feels a bit lack-lustre to me.
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,965 reviews282 followers
November 21, 2014
This is actually a re-read for me. I had read the first two books in this series way back, probably over 25 years ago. At that time I was a neophyte when it comes to reading fantasy fiction and I don't remember liking either book very well. They were more complicated than the easier-to-read Dragonlance-style stuff I was into at that time and I think I had built up a sort of negative attitude towards them. But over the years, through one form or another, I have accumulated the entire series with the idea of one day reading through them all. So this was the week that I finally put aside my previous prejudices and began anew.

Wow, I'm so glad I did. I was intrigued with the central idea of reincarnation mixed in a fantasy realm and but I also found the story and the characters to be very interesting. It certainly kept my interest throughout the novel and while the ending was satisfying it certainly sets up the follow-on novels well.

In the past I've found that novels, particularly fantasy novels that have lots and lots of characters, are a problem for me. I just lose track of who's who. Perhaps my mind isn't what it once was but I think I've always been this way and I simply find keeping track of them all to be a turnoff. I realized with this novel (and the entire series of 15 novels), that I would need a way to keep track of them all, especially given that we're dealing with reincarnations of the same characters over many time periods and mostly with different names. After all, just knowing that Garreant in the year 643 is the same person (in reincarnated form) as Cullyn in the 1060s isn't enough because that character will have 8 other reincarnations over the entire series, all with different names. So I made myself a cheat sheet. I am happy to be living in the age of Wikipedia and so I did a quick search for Deverry characters and found a great table that has been developed and posted there. It cross-tabulates all of the major characters and their timeframes so it's actually pretty easy to keep track of. I printed it, cut it out and will carry it in each book as I read through them. It worked great and I felt much more connected to the story this time around.
This is definitely a keeper and I look forward to my further adventures in the land of Deverry.
Profile Image for Beth.
976 reviews118 followers
June 3, 2016
I read this with a reading group and so have done a fair amount of pondering and typing about it already, so this review will be shorter than my usual.

The main thing I can say about it that I haven't elsewhere, is that Ms. Kerr's reach and her grasp are near perfectly matched. How often do you think "I can see what he/she was trying to do, but..."? I did not have that thought at any point reading this novel. I was especially impressed with how lean the writing is. Not in the sense of being sparse or lacking in description, but rather its having no flab, every scene having a purpose whether building character, building suspense, or moving the action forward. I truly admire the craft put into it.

How the sections are interleaved with regards to time must have needed a lot of planning, but that didn't translate to distance between me and the story. I felt so much for these souls*: I cried, I cheered for them, I wanted to shake some sense into them.

*there's a reason I use the word "souls" but it's on the spoiler-y side.

Great storytelling and great characters. Loved it.
Profile Image for Helen.
896 reviews2 followers
April 30, 2016
One of the things I enjoy about this is the vocab. It's just so Welsh, reminds me of home.

Characters have been set up, action started and appetites whetted. Initially, the time changes were confusing but you quickly get to grips with this. Part two to follow.
Profile Image for Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen.
1,683 reviews599 followers
September 25, 2016

Another epic fantasy series that I can get into!!

Wonderful world building and I love how it flips back and forth....and the premise of the book??

So freakin' unique and out of the box!

I have been having such a hard time trying to find a decent epic/high fantasy that isn't one dimensional and with a female protagonist. I honestly think I read them all until I came across this series!
Profile Image for imyril.
436 reviews62 followers
March 28, 2020
I’ve loved this book for over 30 years; I still do, although I appreciate (and look askance) at different things these days. But it’s a soaring saga well told, and I’m delighting in revisiting it.

An epic fantasy with a distinctly Celtic flavour and a unique narrative voice, it’s set in a richly-imagined alternate world, complete with Elves, Dwarves, magic (or dweomer) and fuck off swords. It explores ideas of choice, consequences and redemption over multiple lifetimes, introducing twists and tangles to defeat the most patient soul. It’s heady, often difficult stuff, and it draws me in every time. Trust me – this is a classic that’s well worth your time.

Full review
Profile Image for Emily .
779 reviews79 followers
August 6, 2019
40% DNF

What a slog. I don't care about any of the characters, I find the main premise of the entire story to be so flawed I just can't move past it . Anyway...I just didn't like the book. I kept hoping it would get better, but it didn't.
Profile Image for Sam.
235 reviews32 followers
June 15, 2020
So happy I picked up this series again. It definitely has aged better than some of the other old fantasies I remember reading a long time ago.
Profile Image for Amanda.
707 reviews96 followers
February 10, 2010
This is the first book in Katharine Kerr's long-running series about Deverry and the Westlands. It introduces the three linked characters of Jill, Rhodry and Nevyn. This book - and indeed the series - is set up in such a way that it will jump from future to past and back again. It can make for complicated reading and an issue with pacing, but it genuinely brings the events to life.

The idea is that in the year 643 Galrion (who is to become Nevyn) makes a series of decisions that causes his lady love Brangwen to turn away from a life of dweomer (the name for magic) and become embroiled in an incestuous relationship with her own brother. Nevyn makes a vow that he will never rest until he has put things right. Consequently, he is unable to die and experiences the characters being reborn again and again while he tries to bring Brangwen to a life of dweomer. Jill is the latest woman that has the soul of Brangwen.

The strength of Kerr's writing is not so much in the story itself, but in the characters who inhabit it, and in the way she is able to tell each of the short stories about one of the lives that Brangwen lives. Her ability to invest you in what is essentially a short story is exceptionally good.

There are some tired cliches - the Elves for instance. Here called the Westfolk or the Elcyion Lacar, they are nomads with pointed ears and cat pupil eyes. They are foreign to the humans, and able to see the Wildfolk - the denizens of the etheric plane.

I also got frustrated with two recurring over-uses of description. Many of the characters, especially the women, toss their heads. Constantly. Many of the characters keen in mourning. Frequently. Barring these two things, the writing flows well.

I enjoyed the heavy Celt flavouring to Deverry, it was tied richly into the story. I do have a small complaint that a number of the names are familiar and Kerr does not bring on the characters of those in the secondary string enough for you to tell easily between your Pedyr's and your Daumur's.

I thoroughly enjoyed this first instalment of the series and will read onwards eagerly.
Profile Image for Stine.
227 reviews12 followers
May 29, 2012
Ehmm... A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and now I regret reading it. This book really wasn't my type of book. Not that I have a particular type, but this just isn't it.

First I have to confess that the only reason I finished this book, was because I went on a trip and hadn't thought of bringing more than one book. This is something I deeply regret. Why?????

The story in itself isn't all that bad, I find the overall plot quite intriguing actually, but not all the politics in this book. Frankly I was bored out of my mind. The only times I were interested were when we finally got Jills point of view (and it didn't really happen all that often). Some of the parts I didn't really understand why were there in the first place (Year 696 anyone?), I get that Aderyn is important but less words please. And I really shouldn't be complaining since I have no trouble reading G. R. R. Martin, but still... I have a feeling that most of the parts I felt were unnecessary will be explained in future books, but I'm not sure if I have the patience for that.

I particularly had some trouble with the incest part of the story. It isn't exactly like it was approved of in the book, but the fact that he almost couldn't help himself just made me mad. Just because you love someone deeply you don't have to want to fuck them!

THIS BOOK WAS REALLY ANTICLIMACTIC! The evil guy just escapes? And his minions just die? What? Oh, and yeah, Exile? BECAUSE HE DID SOMETHING "BAD" IN HIS LAST LIFE? Maybe I'm just in the wrong mood, but I will definitely not be reading this again.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tracy.
639 reviews24 followers
April 16, 2020
I read this many years ago. While I didn’t love it as much as I did when I was in my twenties it was still an excellent read. I particularly loved the way the characters development carried on from one life to the next.
Profile Image for Mona.
509 reviews296 followers
January 21, 2022

I enjoyed this as the first volume of a classic epic fantasy series. It wasn’t a favorite, but it was solid.

The author’s use of the occult is interesting. The style of magic (called “dweomer ”) features astral travel, shape shifting, karma or fate (“Wyrd”) and reincarnation, among other things. It’s unusual to find these elements in a fantasy novel.

The tale takes place in Deverry, a Celtic land remiscent of Wales with a touch of Scotland. There are a couple of timelines: one in the ninth century, the other in the eleventh. The world building is solid.

Some of the characters are mildly interesting, but none are extremely compelling. The novel’s focused more on plot than on characters, although the plot is sometimes character driven.

I didn’t care for Ruth Urquhart’s audio reading though. Her reading style was histrionic at times,
and she read all the young women as hysterics or little girls.

Trigger warning: there’s incest. So if this bothers you, stay away.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,161 reviews1,254 followers
January 11, 2014
This book came highly recommended, so I’m sorry to say that despite its strengths, it has not inspired me to seek out the 15 sequels.

For a fantasy novel first written in the 80s, this has aged reasonably well, though not so well as another recent find of mine, the wonderful The Ladies of Mandrigyn. Daggerspell is listed as epic fantasy, though there’s no more than a hint of an Enemy--as opposed to a mere antagonist--in this volume. While Kerr incorporates some old-fashioned elements (I can’t remember when I last read a fantasy book that actually included elves and dwarves), the plot is an unusual one, with the first half following the same group of main characters through multiple incarnations over the span of four hundred years. The second half focuses in on the “modern-day” plotline, involving the rebellion of a minor lord against his prince.

But if the plot is innovative, the characters are standard fantasy creations: Jill, the Exceptional Girl; Rhodry, the Noble Prince; Nevyn, the Wise Old Man; Cullyn, the Swordmaster with a Dark Past. They aren't flat, but they never did much to grab my attention, and while seeing the variations in their love rectangle in their several incarnations was a novelty, I didn’t find said love rectangle nearly interesting enough the first time to want to see it repeated twice more. And the “star-crossed lovers” rationale is used to shortcut through actual relationship development, making it hard for me to care about these supposedly life-altering passions. The rebellion in the latter half of the book interested me more: here the story moves at a brisk pace, with enough political complications to please those who prefer intrigue to fighting in their fantasy. It is also nice to see characters who are reasonably quick on the uptake: when there’s a “no man can kill him” prophecy about an opponent, I worried they’d be lost for half the book, but it only takes a few pages for the guys to appeal to Jill.

The story takes place in an alternate version of medieval Wales, and Kerr’s worldbuilding deserves the praise it’s been consistently given; much fantasy takes place in “quasi-medieval” worlds, but this one feels like an authentic medieval setting, as well-researched and thought through as historical fiction. The physical and political details of the world ring true: initially I was surprised, for instance, at the small size of the warbands, but for local chieftains with limited resources at their disposal, the numbers make sense. The dialogue is somewhat stylized, but in a consistent way that gives appropriate flavor to the characters’ speech, and the writing style is adequate.

In the end, a competent fantasy with textured worldbuilding, but rather staid character roles and personalities that left me uninspired. While this book has an independent plot arc, it’s clearly the first in a series, with many loose ends and a story that, standing alone, has little resonance. I wouldn’t discourage others from picking this up, particularly those who love long fantasy series, but as for me, I’m unlikely to continue.
Profile Image for Kaśyap.
271 reviews123 followers
September 17, 2015
An interesting start to an epic fantasy series. The setting is a very well realised Celtic/Gaulish world. It follows a set of characters over centuries through their various rebirths and one character who lives through the whole period. Its pacing is not in a linear time.
I felt that Except for Nevyn and Brangwen/Jill the other characters haven’t been very well realised. Especially Rhodry who seems to be some kind of prophesised saviour comes off as very annoying and childish. Nevyn and Brangwen’s tale at the beginning is quite tragic and poor Nevyn, the most likable character, seems to have the cruellest wyrd.
But on the whole, the novel felt kind of mundane to me. I'm not really sure if i would continue with it.
Profile Image for Catherine Campos.
645 reviews348 followers
April 16, 2020
Hay algo en los libros de fantasy de los años 80' y 90' que es muy cautivador, a lo mejor es que son más honestos? más primitivos? no lo sé con seguridad, pero algo tienen.

Este libro transcurre en un mundo de magia, el Dweomer es una especie de comunión entre el mundo, las leyes naturales y el hombre que a alcanzado la iluminación. En este lugar cohabitan varios seres, de momento hemos visto a los humanos, los elfos, enanos y los wildfolks o espíritus elementales. En este mundo también existe la reencarnación de las almas y es precisamente ahí donde esta historia se sostiene.

Hace muchos años un grupo de personas fueron parte de una tragedia que trabó sus destinos en un bucle que está condenado a repetirse hasta que todas las deudas estén saldadas, de este grupo original el único que sobrevive es Nevyn, condenado a vivir eternamente hasta ver todos los destinos cumplidos.

La historia nos narra la encarnación actual de todos estos personajes y también se intercala con el relato del grupo original, así como la segunda encarnación de estos. Es trágico ver como la historia se repite o tuerce, nunca pudiendo quedar saldada, viendo el sufrimiento de Nevyn una y otra vez.

Para el año en que fue escrita sin duda fue una historia innovadora y ambiciosa, porque incluso en este libro vemos signos que nos hablan no solo de vidas pasadas, sino de las que vendrán, lo cual me lleva a comentar que esta saga se compone de cuatro actos (cada uno una saga de cuatro libros), por lo tanto creo que faltan encarnaciones y dramas por conocer. Además, la autora es un gran narradora a pesar de cambiar de puntos de vista constantemente, y luego los flashbacks al pasado, todo se siente bien conectado y fluido, a lo mejor muy rápido, pero no es un problema.

Katherine Kerr escribió esta novela en 1986 y nos dio un par de protagonistas femeninas que son lo que esperamos encontrar hoy en día, no hace treinta y algo años atrás, y la admiro mucho por no seguir el estereotipo, una mujer puede ser más de 'una cosa', hay espacio para las sutilezas.

Jill es una guerrera poco femenina, pero no rechaza su condición por despreciarla sino porque es más cómodo en sus circunstancias, tampoco es una asesina sedienta de sangre, reconoce el valor de la vida y lo terrible que es asesinar un hombre, su camino la lleva a las magias ancestrales pero no esta segura de querer cumplirlo, algo que seguro veremos desarrollarse en los siguientes libros.

Lovyan es su contraria, cumple a la perfección las reglas de una mujer con rango noble, no es una tirana, pero es muy astuta y disfruta del poder, cualidades que enseguida la deben perfilar como una manipuladora de la corte, pero por el contrario es uno de los personajes de mejor corazón en el libro, compasiva e inteligente realmente sabe como moverse en un mundo controlado por los hombres.

Cullyn, padre de Jill, fue otro de mis favoritos, porque en sus encarnaciones anteriores fue un personaje muy conflictivo, algo que se espera de él en su encarnación actual, y si bien hay algo de maldad en él, lo que lo hace maravilloso es que él lo sabe y no piensa actuar al respecto, constantemente pelea contra sí mismo por obtener el control, es un personaje muy humilde dentro de su desarrollo y sufro mucho por él.

Rhodry, el galán, un noble y caballero, creo que disfrute más la dinámica de su relación con Cullyn que con Jill, creo que en parte se debe a que sé quienes fueron y quienes podrían llegar a ser, y siento que Rhodry y Jill no son algo duradero, pero su relación fraternal con Cullyn puede enmendar pasadas ofensas y un vínculo olvidado.

Sucedieron tantas cosas en este libro que imposible hablar de ellas, pero todas están regidas por el Wyrd, el destino de los personajes, y si bien hay cosas que se repiten, cada personaje tiene la voluntad de actuar diferente, es un tanto contradictorio pero si lo leyeran lo entenderían.

Al inicio me constó conectar con la historia más que nada por el vocabulario que desconocía (y no me di cuenta del glosario hasta que terminé el libro -.-'') por lo demás, diría que de todas maneras se necesita un buen nivel de inglés para leerlo, de forma que asimilar estas palabras no se haga tan complicado.

Definitivamente seguiré con la saga, pero no ahora mismo y afortunadamente el final es semi-cerrado, así que no sufriré por el siguiente.
Profile Image for Lexie.
2,080 reviews301 followers
October 21, 2018
You ever read an older book, one that's been around for decades (30ish in this case) and say "If only I'd found you sooner".

DAGGERSPELL is that book for me. I vaguely remember always seeing these books on the shelves at the used book stores I frequented, but it never occurred to me to pick it up. Having read this first one I wonder at why that was. This is basically every single trope I thirsted for as a tween/teen desperately seeking fantasy.

Jill, a young girl who's destined for great things and caught between two futures.

Cullyn, a gruff merc who wants to deny the future as much as possible because the now is fine.

Rhodry, a nobleman who feels aimless but largely wants nothing more then to do the right thing.

Nevyn, wise weirdo who probably shouldn't keep all those secrets to himself because let's face it they do no one any good unsaid.

All stuck in a fate they all couldn't avoid if they tried.

This book, maybe because of when it was written (and revised) feels like my childhood reading Mercedes Lackey, Marjorie Kellogg, Tanya Huff, Janny Wurts and Elizabeth Scarborough. The paperback is old - yellowed, stained and with a very creased binding while retaining that old paperback smell of well worn paper and ink. The pages feel roughly textured and the speech is oddly formal even amongst the common folk and their rough slang.

I think nostalgia partially had me enjoying this since some of it bored me (I was more interested in Jill than any of her past lives) and I was somewhat nettled by how casually Cullyn's answer to getting Jill to listen was to slap her. 13 year old Alex wouldn't have even given it a second thought, 34 year Lexie is like WHY YOU TAKE THAT JILL.

I do have the next two books in the series so I'll be reading them. It's...a good length long so eventually I might get to them all.
Profile Image for Ruth Macleod.
49 reviews4 followers
August 11, 2011
Book 1 of 15 in total, the first in a long series it has a lot to live up to and a lot to accomplish, however it did just that. Daggerspell is probably one of my favourite books in this series as well as a favourite in general. Set in a sort of celtic time the world Katherine Kerr has created is both detailed and thoroughly real, you can immerse yourself in the culture seamlessly and the way she describes things such as the magic and peoples past lives is wonderfully detailed but still understandable.
The plot surrounds the main characters of Nevyn, Jill, Cullyn and Rhodry. The premiss being that the characters fate (wryd) is linked together throughout all their lives, and when they die, they are destined to be reborn in new lives but their souls will still find each other. Its a great concept and one you cant help but get absorbed in as the souls jump from one life to the next, making the same mistakes and improving others.
Jill as the main female character is wonderful and everything a strong lead should be, she's smart and strong and she makes the perfect character for all people who prefer female leads.
Nevyn as the main male lead is a wonderful character that you cant help but feel sorry for and hope he achieves his dream.
Would recommend to any fantasy lover.
Profile Image for I'm Booked.
61 reviews112 followers
August 3, 2014
I really enjoyed this book! After reading epic fantasy series by Goodkind, Jordan and Martin I was burnt out by the genre; It seemed like every new book that I tried paled in comparison to the GOT series. Luckily, a fellow lover of fantasy recommended that I check out this series and I'm very glad that I did! I enjoyed it so much that I felt that I had to pay it forward, in the hopes that someone else might read these words and decide to pick up one of the best fantasy novels that I've read in YEARS, (with the exception of The Game of Thrones, of course.)

Daggerspell was a well written novel with well developed characters and an interesting plot line. I loved how Kerr utilized the ideas of karma and reincarnation to develop her wonderfully original world. At times it vaguely reminded me of Cloud Atlas and at other times it reminded me of the Wheel of Time but at no time did it ever lose my interest.

Daggerspell invited me into the multiple lives of it's main charters and I enjoyed it so much that I practically put my own life on hold until I had finished it. I've already purchased the next three books in the series and I look forward to revisiting Kerr's world soon!
Profile Image for Sarah Mac.
1,098 reviews
February 2, 2018
Eh. It's alright. The Deverry universe is essentially Celtic reincarnation role-play fantasy, complete with elves & gnomes, though it also borrows heavily from standard Tolkien tropes. Some parts were good, other parts tedious as hell. The magic & the cheesy elvish stuff was fine (& frankly, I'm surprised how many people are put off by the bad-karma incest -- y'all so squeamish, it's more like Shakespeare than George RR Martin >:P). But the MCs were flat, the pacing was awful, & the lack of chapters made boring scenes even more tedious & unending. By the end I just wanted to finish it & have done.

2.5 stars, rounded up 3 for the good bits.

EDIT, 2/1/18: Opened the second book, read a few pages, cringed, & added both to the donate bag. My time, space, & patience are limited; I'm definitely not bothering with a series that doesn't hook my attention, let alone fills me with ambivalence.
Profile Image for Shari  Mulluane.
133 reviews83 followers
May 23, 2009
Once you get used to the storytelling style, you will discover a tale that keeps you fully engaged in the unfolding events. Boring is not a word I could imagine using in conjunction with this book. It twists, it turns, it has action pouring off the pages and there is constant underlying question, will Nevyn ever find a way to make things right? Meanwhile you have plenty of entertaining characters, desperate wars, evil sorcerers, human tragedies and heart wrenching love stories, all designed to keep you glued to the pages until you look up and wonder where the time went.

Full Review Here: Dragons, Heroes and Wizards | Fantasy Series Book Reviews
Profile Image for Brenda.
1,423 reviews37 followers
June 10, 2021
I just finished rereading this about nine years after the first time. I really liked it the first time I read it, but I'm having a hard time figuring out why. I didn't like it as much this time.

I was reading it on my Kindle before bed, so maybe I was tired and it was hard to focus. Whatever the case, there were a lot of boring bits. I'll continue on in the reread, and hope the books aren't all worse than I remember.
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