Posts Categorized: Feature Article

Daggerspell by Kathrine Kerr

Welcome to the final instalment of the Daggerspell Reread and Review Series!

If you’re interested in learning more about Kate, me or this project, please take some time to read ‘Introducing: The Daggerspell Reread and Review Series, with Kate Elliott’, where we discuss our experience with Kerr’s work (None for me! Lots for Kate!), and our expectations for this reread/review series.

The second part of the project, we tackled a large chunk of Daggerspell, which covered the first 184 pages, and saw the most recognizably ‘epic fantasy’ conflict so far: a war between armies, a battle between mages (good and evil), and a beautiful woman falling in love with a (sorta) prince. Sounds cliche, but, as we’re learning about Kerr, nothing she writes is ever so simple as it seems.

Though Cullyn, Jill and Nevyn are at the heart of the conflict in that section of the book, it was Lovyan, mother of Rhodry and Rhys, that caught our attention. Kate said:

Look how neatly Kerr introduces an older woman: She is a noblewoman who through a completely realistic twist in the law (explained clearly by Kerr) is a ruler in her own right although she is subordinate to her own son (who is gwerbret, which I will define here as a lord who is of lesser rank than the king but who has a number of lords under his rule).

Lovyan does not swing a sword. She rules. She rules over a collection of lesser lords (all landed) with a full understanding of the ways in which her situation gives her power and the ways in which she has to carefully negotiate her position because she is a woman.

[...]

Lovyan proves herself as a good ruler even while Kerr makes it clear that her being a woman makes her situation precarious. Nor is her role seen as a one note role. She is frustrated by her inability to reconcile her feuding sons (an issue that will become central to the plot later), she engages with Nevyn because she understands that he is far more than the simple herbman he pretends to be, she shows kindness to Jill. And she is a little secret in her past, an affair she obviously has had to keep hidden all these years.

She is an older woman with agency and a full personality in a genre that gives characters like her short shrift. She is absolutely one of my favorite characters in the entire series.

So, join us while we discuss the ending to Daggerspell, reflect on one of Lord of the Rings‘ greatest lessons… and twist ourselves into Celtic Knots as we look back on the entire experience!

Spoilers Galore!

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It got me to wondering why there aren’t more fantasy (or science fiction) novels that deal with issues outside of violence?

I’m working on an idea for a secondary world urban fantasy about a young man who enters a very opulent city looking to become a master chef. The story follows his journey through various culinary-related careers — farmer, butcher, fisherman, baker, patissier, commis — until he opens his own restaurant and becomes a known quantity within the city. Although it doesn’t even sound like it would need to be set in a fantasy city, I’m still making it a fantasy because I’m comfortable with fantasy and I also want to explore the magic in food. Outside of writing and reading, cooking is a passion of mine.

However, as I’ve been outlining and drafting this novel (working title: Stock), it occurred to me that I was writing a fantasy novel with almost no violence (outside of a fistfight or two). The plot is resolved through hard work and cleverness. It got me to wondering why there aren’t more fantasy (or science fiction) novels that deal with issues outside of violence? Read More »

Daggerspell by Kathrine Kerr

Welcome back to the Daggerspell Reread and Review Series!

If you’re interested in learning more about Kate, me or this project, please take some time to read ‘Introducing: The Daggerspell Reread and Review Series, with Kate Elliott’, where we discuss our experience with Kerr’s work (None for me! Lots for Kate!), and our expectations for this reread/review series.

Last time around, we began reading Daggerspell and covered the first 196 pages. In that time, we were introduced to a feisty girl with an unlikely destiny, her worldweary father, an herbman who is much more than he seems, and a 400 year old tragedy that still resonates through their lives and the world of Deverry.

Kate explored the world of Deverry and unpacked why Katharine Kerr was able to create such a compelling and deeply lived-in fantasy world:

One of my favorite things about the Deverry series is that rather than being written in tight third person point of view, it is actually written in omniscient. The entire sequence is narrated by an outside narrator who has a specific point of view. She is clearly writing in the “future” of the world; that is, the narrator is a writer in Deverry writing historical fiction about her own world. Throughout the series she makes asides reminding the reader how a city has grown or that certain lands weren’t yet cultivated. Because of this there is a constant living sense of a world that is changing as places do. Both through the device of the narrator inserting brief explanatory reminders and through the use of the reincarnated lives by which the reader moves back and forth through time via the “past life” sequences and sees the same places in different centuries, Kerr depicts a slowly-changing culture and landscape. Deverry is never a static world.

So, return with us to the world of Deverry as we rejoin Jill, Cullyn and Nevyn as well as meet some new friends and enemies!

Spoilers Galore!

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Art by Jason Chan

Even if you put aside problematic assumptions of biological determinism, there’s still one thing I just can’t understand: why on earth would a fantasy world have to conform to the (supposed) rules of this one?

Lately there have been questions as to whether epic fantasy is inherently “conservative.” The term is sometimes specified in terms of political movement or ideological conservatism, but more broadly refers to the production and reproduction of social convention. I have serious doubts about the ideological bit, a point already well articulated by Liz Bourke. Unfortunately, I have little doubt about the rest—particularly in comparison to epic fantasy’s sibling genre, science fiction. But why is that, and does it really have to be that way?

I started thinking about these questions after reading excellent essays by Kameron Hurley and Foz Meadows on the historical precedent for women warriors in epic fantasy (as well as Django Wexler’s epic follow-up piece), and particularly after being drawn into a vigorous online discussion on that topic. The prevalent counter-argument, as I understand it, is this: for biological-evolutionary reasons (lesser upper body strength, necessity for the slow human reproductive process, greater empathy, etc.), women in our world are less likely to be soldiers; therefore, they should be less common as soldiers in fantasy worlds.

Huh? Read More »

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How could I not embrace science fiction? Literature that took me outside the here and now, to look back from somewhere else.

I’ve written science fiction for a while. Okay, since I was ten, which was the year before the first episode of Star Trek aired. I’m a child of the Cold War, of monster movies (Rhodan!), and of the seemingly limitless vistas of technology and space. My textbooks changed while I was in school, adding the discovery of DNA as well as the perils of pollution. In my university room — in everyone’s — hung the first photo of this planet taken from somewhere else.

How could I not embrace science fiction? Here was literature that spoke of what was happening in the world around me — and what I hoped might happen. (Or not!) Literature that took me outside the here and now, to look back from somewhere else. When I discovered my first volume in the school library (Andre Norton’s The Star Rangers), it began more than a love affair. As a budding scientist, science fictional thinking, replete with questions and speculations and curiosities and wonders, was like coming up for air. When I became a biologist, it became my most trusted skill set. I could frame questions. I would search out answers. Findings, the fun ones, should challenge preconception. Science fiction, to me, has been how I talk and dream science. It’s made me a better communicator. It’s given me a venue to share my passion. Read More »