Posts Categorized: Review

Daggerspell by Kathrine Kerr
The Daggerspell Reread and Review Series: Wrap-up

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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Sorcerer's Luck by Katharine Kerr

Publisher: Osel Books - Pages: 278 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Sorcerer's Luck by Katharine Kerr

Here at A Dribble of Ink, given that Aidan Moher and Kate Elliott are currently two posts in to their joint reading and analysis of Daggerspell, book one in Katharine Kerr’s fifteen-volume Deverry saga, it seems like a pertinent time to review Kerr’s latest novel, Sorcerer’s Luck – not only because it’s a refreshing, enjoyable read in its own right, but because it serves as a solid introduction to Kerr’s thematic style. Which is a useful thing to have to hand: as much as Deverry constitutes one of my absolute favourite series of all time (and for anyone interested in some of my slightly spoilerish thoughts on same, they can be found here), even though the series is finished, fifteen books is a lot to ask anyone to invest in without some proof that they’ll enjoy the author’s writing. This is, for instance, the big problem with recommending Terry Pratchett’s Discworld to first-time readers: whichever book we might personally view as the apex of the series (mine is Night Watch), a big part of our love for it invariably comes from the fact that we already know the characters from earlier stories. I was, therefore, immensely pleased when Pratchett went and wrote Nation, an incredibly powerful book that not only exemplifies the best of his style, but which neatly cuts through the issue of recommending any one Discworld novel as a starting point.

Which brings me back to Sorcerer’s Luck: a story about the relationship between Maya Cantescu, a struggling art student and vampire-but-not-really based in San Francisco, and Tor Thorlaksson, a wealthy sorcerer and bjarki – that is, someone who shapeshifts into a bear. Among her other talents, Maya has the ability to see through illusions, and when Tor finds himself being haunted at the dark of the moon by otherworldly manifestations, he hires Maya to see through them. But their professional relationship soon becomes complicated, not only by their mutual attraction to one another, but by the increasingly violent actions of Tor’s sorcerous enemy. What’s the real reason for Maya and Tor’s connection? And what does Tor’s unknown opponent want? 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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The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

Publisher: Doubleday Children - Pages: 416 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch

I’m going to say some stuff about Young Adult fiction. Some of it’s going to be really wrong, but I’ll hedge by saying it’s my interpretation. Let’s try not to crucify me for it.

For me, what makes a book Young Adult isn’t the age of its protagonist, simplicity of story, or basic themes. Instead, it requires some didactic aspect. For example, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Shipbreaker isn’t just a fucked-up coming of age story, but a teaching tool for conceptualizing climate change, as well as refining mores for peer group interactions. I would argue the weakest part of the novel is its plot and protagonist, both of which feel cookie-cutter. What makes it successful for young readers is what it imparts. Thusly, I would argue, until I’m blue in the face, that Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga or David Edding’s Belgariad are not Young Adult. I would prefer to call them fiction for all ages. In other words, they tell a story that’s easy to understand for young readers, but does absolutely nothing to recommend it as something that ought to be targeted to them. I make this distinction because Amy McCulloch’s The Oathbreakers Shadow is a Young Adult novel, and a fine one at that. Read More »

Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 336 - Buy: Book/eBook
SHATTERED PILLARS by Elizabeth Bear, Art by Donato Giancola

“I am the Ruined Queen. Nothing of Erem can harm me. And we must drill, my soldiers. You must practice for war.”

Range of Ghosts (REVIEW), the first volume of Elizabeth Bear’s fantasy trilogy, The Eternal Sky, was something of a revelation. At once it it managed to be full of life, of individuality, yet still reminiscent of the Fantasy genre’s adventurous roots in the ’80s and ’90s with Brooks, Feist and Eddings, and beyond that to the Sword & Sorcery of Leiber and Howard. Bear’s fictional world, deeply inspired by the steppes of Mongolia, the jungles of south-east Asia and the majestic Himalayans, was as heartbreakingly beautiful as it was fun and thoughtful. In 2013, there’s little else I ask for from a Fantasy novel than that it remains inclusive and progressive. When a novel has these qualities, and also manages to echo those early touchstone novels without feeling derivative, it’s like literary heaven. I had never read a novel by Bear before, and so was sheltered from preconceptions and expectations going into Range of Ghosts. Shattered Pillars, now, has the misfortune of being judged as the sequel to a book that I consider a beacon of hope for the future of epic fantasy. I once wrote about the dangers of reader expectation, yet I begin few novels with so high a level of expectation as I did when I opened Shattered Pillars. Read More »