SWG: How'd you like that book? Daggerspell

Without giving any of my readers a heart attack, I would like to present for your reading pleasure a review of a book that hasn't anything to do with Star Wars. As I mentioned last week, I do read other things. So, Star Wars Geek, How'd you like...

Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr

 

I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to the work of Katharine Kerr. Her first book was published in 1986. That book was Daggerspell, a high fantasy swords and sorcery novel that somehow managed escape my notice to this point[1. Of course, the main thrust of my reading has been SW books, so I'm sure I've missed out on dozens of gems, still yet to be discovered.].

The novel takes place in a fictional setting, with a culture based off of the Gallic tribes who inhabited northern Europe. They founded the kingdom of Deverry, a place of rich history and culture. It is clear from the pronunciation notes alone that Kerr is a real linguist, and the use of Deverrian words seamlessly sown into the English works to fantastic effect. The book was a real adventure, believable at every turn, and a real pleasure to read.

There are maps at the beginning, which help the reader understand the lay of the whole kingdom, as well as the region where most of the book takes place. The use of time is extremely well done, with pieces of the book happening in three distinct time periods, the "present" (which covers over a decade), about 400 years before the present, and about 300 years before the present.

As a whole, the work was cohesive, the prose beautiful, and the story tight. Details never felt wasted, as they either served to enrich the world or further elements of the plot. I would caution that if you don't like referring to the maps and the pronunciation guide, some of the effect of the book may be lost on you, but that said, I'd give this book a 5 out of 5: must read[2. Btw, for clarity, when rating on a 1-5 scale, 1 = Should never have been published. 2 = I disliked this book, though it may have merit for other readers. 3 = Average read. If you've got nothing else, pick it up. 4 = Great read! I recommend it. 5 = This book should be handed out at all parties.].

The book is only the first in an extensive series, which I plan to read in the coming year or so, interspersed with my other pressing reads[3. New SW fiction and a few other books I've picked up here and there the past few years, which I somehow never seem to finish before buying even more books.].

By the way, as a great hater of spoilers, I must warn you: do not read the back of the book if you don't like spoilers. Personally, I avoid reading the publisher's summary on the back until after I've finished the book (or sometimes when I've made it over half way if the mood strikes me). I'm glad I held off with this one, though, as it reveals a crucial plot element literally from the very end of the book. I was shocked when I finished, turned the book over, and saw an event that had just happened[4. It shows up in the form of a single past participle, but still, that description is accurate no sooner than the end of the book.]

That may be in part because this is a reprint from '93, after this book had already been established as the first in a great series, but it's something I'd be wary of on any copy of a book. That being said, SPOILER ALERT, here is the publisher's summary (at least on my copy):

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 who 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.

And with that last, I have to agree.

-Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek