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!

Sections Covered

Eldidd 1062 (pp. 197-387, total 184 pages)

What Happens

Daggerspell by Katherine KerrSo, Rhodry (remember him?) got a candlemaker’s daughter pregnant. Shock. His mother, Lovyan, a strong political figure in her own right, isn’t too happy about it, so she’s makes Rhodry apologize. (Who’ll be surprised if that baby becomes important? Not this blogger.)

The Gwerbret of Aberwyn, Rhys, who is daughter of Lovyan and brother to Rhodry, refuses to engage in a political hot pot, over matters of succession and taxes, unless she disinherits Rhodry. He generally seems like a dick. Lovyan’s no fool, and refuses to do so.

Meanwhile, Cullyn has trained his daughter, Jill, in the art of warfare, swordplay and being awesome. They take a job guarding a caravan that is heading out to trade with the Westfolk (pointy ears, magical affinity, mysterious society. Hmmm.) They run across a creepy dude named Loddlaen (he’ll be back.) With the Westfolk (Oh, they’re elves!), the meet an old Deverrian man named Aderyn (who, yep, you remember from earlier, when he was just a plucky kid.) They learn that Loddlaen is a fugitive, wanted by the Westfolk for murder. The caravan returns with a number of the Westfolk who plan to take legal action against Loddlaen in Lovyan’s court.

The caravan is attacked by bandits-who-are-actually-soldiers-from-the-brewing-rebellion-that-Rhys-ignored, and Jill races to Lovyan for help. She runs into Rhodry, who’s all dreamy and stuff. Rhodry arrives and saves the day. Everyone, including Nevyn, who was travelling with Rhodry, seems to be a magician now.

“Luke, I am your father!”

Turns out that Loddlaen’s a bad magic guy, and also Aderyn’s son, but he’s being controlled by some other more evil force that has something out for Rhodry. To defeat the leader of the rebellion, who has been prophesied as dying at the hand of no man, Rhodry recruits Jill, who’s pretty handy with a sword.

Bird battle, silver arrows and daggers, ahoy! Jill kills Corbyn, the leader of the rebellious army. Whoo hoo!

Jill and Rhodry fall in love and get kinky.

Kate’s Impressions

Daggerspell by Katharine KerrThis long self contained section has something of the feel of a novella because it encompasses a somewhat self contained episode even though it is tightly tied into the past and future of the book.

I want to begin by talking about the introduction of Lovyan. Deverry is a patriarchal society in which men rule (to describe it in simplistic terms). Some people think that means that in such societies female characters only function as Non-Player-Characters, people without agency whose minor roles are fully and solely at the service of the plot in the sense that they do not have any important personality or things they might want or need to do, or that if they are Characters then they only have agency insofar as they aid and/or illuminate a man’s plot.

But this never has to be the case. For one thing, simplistic ideas about “how it was in the past” are almost without exception wrong.

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.

Note the brief glimpse of how she has surrounded herself with two unmarried women, described as competent and smart, by offering them a way out of marriages neither wanted to seal in an age where a woman (especially of the noble class) had few options. Yet Kerr shows the reader options. Lovyan’s companions aren’t important to the plot; they are important as a way of revealing Lovyan’s character and as background setting. This is what I mean when I say a writer who can’t be bothered to think outside the box of a very narrow range of what are deemed “important characters” is actually going to write an impoverished background because women like this will be invisible.

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.

A quick comment on the romance. I think Kerr does a great job showing how young Jill and Rhodry really are; their thoughts and actions are so believable and a little callow and very youthful and real.

Aidan’s Impressions

Daggerspell by Katharine KerrIn response to part one of this series, Erik made a comment that stuck out at me, “Only the “present” parts feel emotionally charged. The “flashbacks” read like voice overs with rather bad dialog to me.” On initial glance, I hadn’t thought of this, but, reflecting further, I realized that I had, in some ways, struggled a bit with this same feeling of detachment while reading the Deverry 643 and Deverry 698 sections. Well, perhaps ‘struggled’ is the wrong word, for I enjoyed my time reading about those incarnations of the characters well enough, but, to me, there does seem to be something of a tonal shift in how Kerr approaches storytelling in these sections that removed me somewhat as a reader on an emotional level, even if I am still interested and invested on an intellectual level.

I can’t tell if this is intentional, and I hesitate to pass any sort of judgement, because I can’t critically pinpoint why these sections feel more like a narrative-style glimpse at a history book, rather than the intimate and intensely personal perspective featured in Jill’s timeframe. On the other hand, it might be a subconscious decision on my part as the reader to emotionally detach myself from situations in the novel that are emotionally difficult, which Brangwen’s portion of the novel certainly is. To make it short, I felt like I was reading about Brangwen, but I feel like I’m journeying alongside Jill.

I feel like I’m having some difficulty articulating and gathering this idea, so it’s something I hope to unpack a bit more between now and the final re-read/review series instalment.

Further in those comments, Philip Foster said, “I love the way each chapter feels complete like a short story or novella, this really aids the sense of being slowly immersed in the history of this world and the great events which continue to shape these characters through generations.” In many ways, I think this is one of Daggerspell‘s greatest strengths. With a non-traditional narrative structure, this decision to compose the novel as a series of, essentially, several interconnected short stories allows Kerr to provide several moments of rising action, complete with climaxes and then rippling repercussions throughout the ‘sequels.’ Structurally, it wouldn’t work in all novels, but Kerr handles it brilliantly and allows her to cram an incredible amount of story, plot and character development into a (relatively) short novel.

It felt great to be returned to Jill and Cullyn. Given the emotionally heavy prior segments, Jill’s enthusiasm and Cullyn’s calm, world-weary confidence was like returning to old friends. This surprised me in some ways, because I hadn’t realized I’d grown so attached to them earlier in the novel. Knowing, however, the relationship between them in their previous lives, not to mention Rhodry/Blaen, adds a level of depth to the father and daughter that fostered immediate empathy in me as a reader. Seeing Cullyn’s love for his daughter, and knowing now that it is the same love that Gerraent had for his sister, but expressed in an honest and beautifully loving way, is enough to give me goosebumps. On their own, Jill and Cullyn are likeable, but having experienced Brangwen’s tragedy as a reader, they become lovable.

At no point in the earlier parts of the novel was I ever as invested in the characters and the world as I was during Eldidd 1062. This is the first point in the novel where we find something that represents a more traditional fantasy narrative. The “Luke, I am your father,” plotline bewtween Aderyn and Loddlaen is nothing new, though at the time the novel was initially published, 1986, the trope was, maybe, a little less stale than it is now, but the victimization of Loddlaen, and the few moments that Kerr spends exploring his motivations and the anger that fills him, is enough to remind me that I’m not very fussy when it comes to cliches, as long as they’re played off well.

Oh, also, Aderyn is super awesome.

My favourite scene in the entire book, bar none, is the scene where Rhodry first falls in love with Jill, as she dismantles and humiliates a solider in a one-on-one brawl. This scene tells us so much about Jill, Rhodry and Cullyn, not to mention the societal and cultural tics of Deverry and Eldidd, that I can’t imagine another scene in the novel that does so much with so little. Just wonderful.

Kate’s Repsonse

Daggerspell by Katharine KerrWhat Aidan has written is so beautifully articulated that I have nothing to add except to say that it brings home to me my memories of reading the book for the first time. One of the issues with re-reading is that element of knowing what is happening, of bringing my knowledge of subsequent volumes to the early events, so everything I read is colored by my previous experience and my knowledge of how things fit together.

It is therefore a joy to read about a new reader’s discovery of why and how these books are so good.

At the time I first read the book (1986 or 1987) I did not have the reading tools to understand how well crafted it is, how Kerr uses the nested stories to build, how she makes each episode stand somewhat alone in terms of structural narrative yet interweaves those episodes to create ever richer layers.

This is truly a Celtic knotwork of a sequence, an impressive achievement.

Aidan’s Response

Daggerspell by Katharine KerrThanks, Kate. As a first time reader, immersed here among a lot of other long-time fans who are following along with this re-read, particularly those who have been contributing to the comments sections of the posts, puts me in an interesting position. Normally when I read a novel, I do so somewhat critically (especially if I’m reading it for review), and pay attention to the author’s use of craft and story construction. This time, I have some flashers alerting me to a lot of the foreshadowing that’s happening in this book, and I’ve been trying to pay extra attention to the wording of dialogue and prophecy, in an attempt to pick up on some of this foreshadowing. But… I’ll be damned if I could point to any place in the book where I feel like this careful attention has given me any further insight into what’s to come, and that’s an absolute testament to Kerr’s ability to construct such a labyrinthine plot. There are some books that are meant to be read once. I think this re-read series, contrasted against my experience as a first time reader, is a testament to how rewarding some series can be a second or third time around. In some ways, I’m envious of those who are having a chance to rediscover this series, which isn’t something I often say!

The emergence of the ‘dark master,’ who has taken advantage of Loddlaen’s weakness and anger, has given me something to hook onto as a familiar story element. Before, in the portions of the novel covered in the first part of this series, I enjoyed the story, but felt like it was sort of floating nebulously along, dealing with the swirling maelstrom of consequences after Nevyn’s selfish decisions, but without an actual goal towards which the main narrative (Jill and Cullyn, I suppose) was moving. The ‘dark master,’ whoever he or she is (I suspect, if I thought hard enough, and caught on to more of that foreshadowing, I could discern the answer), gives a nicely familiar adversary and frame for the narrative. Now that that’s out of the way, I’m able to relax and enjoy Kerr’s masterful handling of the relationships and tangled plotting.

Not much more to go now, but, god damn, am I looking forward to the tumbling avalanche of an ending that I think is coming.

Discussion
  • Foz Meadows June 13, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Rhodry’s daughter is – I think significant would be the best word – but not in the way you’re thinking. No, not in that one, either. Hee!

  • Aidan Moher June 13, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Gah! Now you have me speculating like crazy, Foz. I’m already trying to figure out who all of these new characters might have been in their past lives, if we’ve even met them yet, or how their future selves might play into the prophecies being thrown around.

  • Amanda June 13, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Lovyan also remains one of my favorite characters for all the reasons that Kate lists. In fact, I think I appreciate her even more now than I did when I first read the books. I also appreciate the warmth and mutual respect and affection we see between Lovyan and Nevyn. While they may have started out with a pragmatic mutual alliance, it is clear they have become friends. It’s fascinating to me that Lovyan trusts Nevyn with a secret that she’s entrusted to no one else.

    My feelings about the Rhodry/Olwen episode are very different this time around. The first time I brushed the whole thing off with a sigh, the way the characters seemed to do. I was sympathetic to Rhodry’s internal monologue about liking Olwen better than women of his own class and I quickly got sucked into the “Rhodry is so honorable” vibe that pervades the rest of the sequence. Now I find it a lot more problematic. The fact that Rhodry slept with Olwen is bad enough in the first place, since given power dynamic between the two, it’s questionable exactly how free and unforced Olwen’s consent could really be. (Certainly it’s clear her family would have intervened long ago if Rhodry had been a young man of her own class). But worse, when publicly confronted, the first thing he tries to do is cast doubt on the child’s paternity. Now, it winds up turning out fine for Olwen (or at least as fine as it is going to get), because Lovyan is an extremely honorable woman as well as a pragmatic ruler and she’s not about to let her son get away with this nonsense. But had Lovyan been a different person, Rhodry’s abysmal behavior could very well have ruined Olwen’s and his daughter’s life. I think the episode is important, not just because of the child it produces, but because of everything it shows us about the society and about both Rhodry and Lovyan’s characters.

    While I in general agree with Kate’s description of the Rhodry/Jill storyline, the Rhodry/Olwen situation colors that story in slightly different hues for me this time around.

  • Aidan Moher June 13, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Also interesting re: Rhodry/Olwen, is how it affects Rhodry’s initial approach to his relationship with Jill. Whether it’s his wyrd, or genuine growth of character (or, just growing up), he seems to understand the damage he cause to Olwen and her family with frivolity and abuse of power, and, like Nevyn, seems determined to avoid those mistakes again. Of course, Jill herself is prone to getting what she wants, and that personality trait, and her own innate charisma and wyrd-bending influence, causes the relationship to play out differently that Rhodry was at first intending.

    I feel that without the mistake he made with Olwen, he would have immediately demolished any chances of creating a lasting and powerful relationship with Jill (which, I expect, will be desperately important to the survival of Deverry.)

  • Kate Elliott June 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Amanda makes an excellent point about the Olwen/Rhodry situation.
    What most struck me on the re-read is how unsentimental Kerr allows Olwen to be. The glow has worn off for her; she’s realized what a bad situation she’s got herself into, and is relieved to be shed of her lover and to have the good fortune to be treated with respect for her situation by Lovyan. This gives her a chance to build a decent life rather than to be shamed. All this contrasts the complete lack of shame Rhodry has to deal with.

  • Lyssabits June 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Hee, oh Rhodry.. I first read this series when I was like, 14-16 (well, all the books that were published and in the library by then) and I thought Rhodry was noble and dreamy and romantic. Then when the new books started coming out again I was 26 and I read the series again. That time I felt totally different about Rhodry. “What a whiny, selfish jerk!” I rolled my eyes at him a lot. ;) I still appreciate that he’s honorable but I have a different take on him now, his honor is important to him just as much because of how he appears to others as it is an internal value. Took the shine right off of him for me. Amazing how much difference a decade makes.

  • Dan June 13, 2013 at 11:58 am

    First-time reader here. I didn’t get caught up to the action quickly enough to comment on the first part of the read-through, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to share some thoughts now. I had always been aware of this series since the first books were being published, but for some reason I never read them (oh, why did I spend so much time on Xanth?). Better late than never! Like others, I found the start to be very slow going at the first, and more than a little confusing. Word of advice: Do not read this book on a Kindle! I became hopelessly lost on multiple occasions trying to keep track of who was who in each past life. With a ‘normal’ book, I would have usually thumbed back to remind myself of what I needed to know. With the Kindle, I had to keep muddling forward, and even now I’m still not sure who Cullyn is supposed to be.

    But, the story did pick up some narrative steam for me, especially with this most recent “longer” section that spent some time developing the characters of Jill/Cullyn/Rhodry. It was gratifying to be able to luxuriate in these characters for a bit longer rather than worrying about whether they are about to yanked out from under me by some time shift. Maybe I’m supposed to be thinking of them as the ‘same’ characters across time, but I haven’t made that mental adjustment yet.

    Jumping to a different topic, I found the covert introduction of Elves and Dwarves interesting, because they seemed like fairly mundane fantasy elements to drop in. I assume they’ll have some larger purpose in the upcoming books (especially the elves, who seemed rather more Important in the hints we are given about the larger story). Is the addition of elves etc a product of the times this was written, being so much closer to Tolkien?

    Finally, if there’s one element I was somewhat dissatisfied by, it is the handling of the dweomer, and intertwined with that, the relationship (or not) to religion and deities. The actual descriptions of dweomercraft were really compelling and evocative (the silver cord tethering you to your body, the red glow from murderous humans) and I like the Wildfolk and I hope we get to hang out with them more (very Celtic). My issue, though, concerns the apparent lack of any obvious reason for the deep levels of suspicion and disbelief that surround the dweomer in the general population of Eldidd, other than just general superstition and ignorance. This is a non-Christian world, and it isn’t clear to me why dweomer is looked upon with such skepticism and fear. There was that the episode involving the bard (sorry I’m going blank on names) who goes into a trance to communicate with his god, while the cleric of Bel looks on — these characters treat direct communication with the god as a reasonable thing to do, and it is handled in way that seems very much like dweomercraft. So what separates dweomer from ‘ordinary’ religion? And finally (then I’ll shut up about this), in the last part when “everyone seems to be a magician” (as Aiden put it), it’s fairly amazing at how quickly everyone seems to put aside their concerns about dweomer as long as it is helping them win battles. It just all feels rather inconsistent, but perhaps I am being unfair.

  • Amanda June 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Lyssa! That’s a really good point about Rhodry’s honor. Some of that’s cultural—he comes from a shame-based culture and it is natural for him to view his honor as a group construct. But regardless, it is central to some of the most problematic aspects of his character.

    Kate, oh yes. Seeing Olwen calmly freeze Rhodry out in that final scene is just fantastic. She’s so self-possessed, with these faint overtones of irritation and disgust. She’s getting on with her life and that’s that. Of course, Rhodry is desperately trying to get her to say something to make him feel better about the situation and she isn’t having any of it. She may not be interested in lambasting him for how he behaved but neither does she owe him comfort.

  • Lyssabits June 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Re: Rhodry’s honor
    Oh definitely it’s a reflection of the culture. I think Rhodry is a great illustration of how such a culture functions and I appreciate him as a character. I just realize now, as an adult, that it’s not necessarily something I really admire. Whereas as a teen I wasn’t really into Cullyn, but as an adult I totally am. He has just as strong a sense of honor as Rhodry does but unlike Rhodry, I found it to be less self-serving. His honor is already basically gone in the eyes of society and so continuing to act honorably aims him nothing tangible. He does it for himself.

    Blaen has such an interesting set of incarnations, for some reason I feel like his character seems the most.. influenced? by his station. I know we haven’t gotten there yet but while I roll my eyes at Rhodry a lot I totally love Maddyn. That’s all I’ll say coz: spoilers. (The Maddyn era may be my favorite of the past sequences.)

  • Kate Elliott June 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Yes, the older one gets the more the shine comes off young Rhodry . . . . Reading it this time, I’ll all, “NOOO! Jill! Don’t do it! You have better things to do!”

    Amanda, what strikes me about Kerr’s handling of Olwen is that she is a character who could easily have been (and I think often is) treated as a woman without agency but Kerr gives us a glimpse into a personality and will that has a story of her own which doesn’t happen to be the subject of this story, rather than a plot device. That’s one of the things that makes the use of female characters problematic in so much epic fantasy: That so many of the women function as plot devices.

  • Kate Elliott June 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Dan,

    You raise a really interesting question: What societal changes happened between the Gweran episode (which takes place about 400 years before the “present day” section with Jill/Cullyn/Rhodry) that alter people’s perception of dweomer and other such supernatural interactions?

    Also, Cullyn is the reincarnation of Gerraent (Brangwen’s brother).

  • Kate Elliott June 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Yes, definitely my favorite Blaen incarnation is M.

  • Kate Elliott June 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves

  • Mary Osmanski June 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    The Deverry 698 section accomplishes a number of purposes without having to be as detailed or intimate an account lives/relationships of the main characters as Deverry 1062.

    It shows us that the souls of those involved with Nevyn in the “original plot” about 50 years previous will tend to return together and to have relationships of some kind with each other in places where Nevyn will be able to encounter them. It allows for the birth of the soul that is Aderyn even though the parents are not the same two people they would have been in 643. It shows us that Nevyn is just beginning to learn that things are not very likely to be made right through the same kinds of relationships with him or each other that existed in that “original plot” back in 643. It shows us that while Nevyn may be able to nudge some matters along, he cannot direct how others are going to behave or the choices they are going to make, and he is going to have learn be resigned to that. It shows us that more than one soul in the group has a lot of learning/growing/changing to do before the larger story can be declared over, and this means there are going to be other lives to be lived than just those of these three points in time(643, 698, 1062).

  • Brendan Podger June 13, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Incan understand people not engaging quite as well with the historical sections since in a way they can be seen as just very elaborate back story for the society and the characters. That being said I dare people not to get invested in the next past life section. ;-)

    On the whole Rhodry/Olwen thing, I came to Deverry after reading Anne McCaffery’s The White Dragon, where we see a similar thing play out with Jaxom and Corana. Because of that I was much less likely to give Rhoddry the benefit of the doubt. He seemed to me an arrogant, callow youth with a lot of growing to do. Of course some of that may have been that he is making goggly eyes at Jill, and is obviously not good enough for her(She’s mine I tells ya. she’s mine!)

  • Brendan Podger June 13, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Ignore this, just subscribing to comments

  • Amanda June 13, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Kate, I think you hit the nail on the head there about Kerr managing to give Olwen clear agency and personality in a situation where that character could easily have had none.

    I also vote for the Blaen incarnation we aren’t supposed to mention yet :)

    Brendan, I read White Dragon a few years before Daggerspell. At the time, I couldn’t even articulate why Jaxom/Corana disturbed me so much.

    Oddly, I have never had any difficulty investing in the past life sections, which feel equally real to me. They are not suspenseful in the same way (we know certain reconciliations can’t happen, for example) but I still find them absorbing.

    I find it interesting that no one so far has commented at all on the Nevyn/Jill dynamic in this section.

  • Kate Elliott June 13, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Mary: What a great assessment of the importance of the Deverry 698 (Gweran, Lyssa, Tanyc) section!

  • Kate Elliott June 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    I also always invested in all the past life sections. (Brendan — so true about the next one but we can’t talk about that yet!!!)

    One of the things I like so much about the interweaving generational stories is seeing certain characteristics, certain faults, certain strengths, certain things that are owed or left unfinished, turn up in unexpected variations and iterations and play out.

    What amazes me is how no past life (and there are some long ones and some brief ones still to come) is ever repetitive. They are each unique and have their own part to play in the ongoing untangling of the Wyrd.

  • Dan June 14, 2013 at 6:02 am

    Is it a fair observation, from this sampling of responses, that people who have already (re-)read the books might be more immediately invested in the characters and the relationships between them because they already have a sense of where it is all going, while some people who are reading these for the first time (like me) don’t really know what to make of the characters yet (especially the past life characters) and so it might take longer for the intricacies of those relationships to seem compelling?

  • Kate Elliott June 14, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Dan, absolutely that makes sense.

    Also, of course, people who read the entire series of 15 books were clearly strongly invested altogether; readers who did not get into the first or subsequent books would not necessarily have finished reading the series.

  • Aidan Moher June 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Lovyan recently, thanks to Kate’s original comments and the following discussion in this here in the comments, and it strikes me how deeply entwined inter-family politics is in Daggerspell. The base idea of having a small core of characters, who, throughout their various reincarnations,

    Most striking, of course, is Jill and Cullyn, who’s incestuous relationship is the lynchpin for the entirety of the novel’s ongoing conflicts, but, most interesting to me, is the conflict between Rhys and his mother and brother. Until this point, Rhys has been off stage, acting as a villain through inaction, rather than direct actions against Rhodry, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect Rhys’ seemingly unfounded hatred for his brother (and apparent ambivalence for the tough situation he’s placing his mother in), is connected to whatever force was manipulating Loddlaen to act against Rhodry.

    Two contesting brothers, locked in a passive war against one another for fears of ambition and succession, is nothing new to storytelling, but what really makes this plot line stand out is how Kerr puts Lovyan in the middle of the standoff as both an emotional stakeholder and a political stakeholder. Rhys’ actions towards his brother can be passed off as machismo, but the way he treats his mother, as a piece of a chessboard and a weapon against Rhodry, tells us more about him than any amount of screen time or direct action against Rhodry ever could have. Lovyan shows such strength in her response to the feud between her sons, and so cleverly and subtly influences that rippling political effects resonating outwards, that her role in the the Eldidd section of the novel is something that might go unnoticed by new readers who’re focussing on the Nevyn/Jill storyline, but are, in many ways, just as emotionally impactful and, presumably, important to the upcoming novels. It’s nice to see a female with political power that doesn’t rely on her ability to manipulate men into doing her dirty work.

  • Kate Elliott June 22, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Aidan — yes, one of the reasons I dislike/d Rhys so much is not even the way he treats Rhodry but the way he treats his mother. You really describe that well.

  • Beth N. June 27, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Quite late to the party again, but do have a thing or two that I didn’t see others address (and one or two that I did):

    I find myself groaning at Rhodry and Jill far more than admiring them (or thinking they’re smokin’ hot). Their idealization of battle prowess and glory, knowing that getting it on with each other is a bad idea but doing it anyway. Heedless pups, the both of ’em!

    Cullyn I appreciate quite a bit more, but there’s still distrust of him, reinforced by the behavior of his past incarnations. I fear, like Nevyn does, some triggering event that will make him do something irreversible that everyone wrapped up in this will regret.

    At times I had trouble distinguishing Nevyn and Aderyn, especially when they were in dialogue with each other. I had thought that Aderyn of 1062 was the same Aderyn as we saw in 698, that being a dweomer worker had given him much longer life or something along those lines, but Mary O.’s comment now makes me wonder. Well, there’ll be time to sort that all out. :)

    Dark dweomer and its practitioners are not seen as invincible and implacable as you often come to expect in large-scale fantasy, but instead seem furtive and craven. You can see in Loddlaen that these are earthly human beings doing these unearthly things, with their human doubts, fears and shortcomings. Both he and Corbyn were pitiable figures to me, not given enough opportunity to see or take other paths than the ones that led to their deaths. Then again, I am starting to think that everybody dies too young in real life too.

  • Lyssabits June 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Kerr is good about not repeating names too much between time periods and confusing people. ;) Aderyn does have an unnaturally long lifespan for a reason unrelated to his status as a practitioner of dweomer. That is a story for a later volume, however.

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