Genre: Sword & Sorcery, 16+
Publisher: Spectra (November 1, 1993)
Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
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 rightened 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.This series is not only a beloved classic; it is an example of Sword & Sorcery at its best. The story is so unique that you will remember it years after you have forgotten the name of the series and the characters. I know this to be fact because I have seen many questions like this on forums over the years.
"What is the name of those books about a wizard who can not die until he finds his reincarnated fiancé and makes amends for causing her untimely death?"
Which is an accurate description of this series, though it is a bit more complicated then that.
Inside the covers of this book, you will find plenty of familiar Fantasy tropes. You have the disgraced Prince in exile, outcast mercenaries, the ancient wizard posing as a simple herbman, elusive, misunderstood (and thus feared) elves, evil sorcerers plying the Dark Arts, gnomes and fae type creatures that only magic wielders can see, and the list goes on... However, it is how Katharine Kerr handles these tropes that gives this book, and series, its charm.
The worldbuilding is incredible. The setting is rich in Celtic overtones, as is the language used. The magic system is well thought out, with limitations in place as to its use. (I love magic with rules) The method of story telling itself is different and may take a bit of getting used to but let us see if I can explain further, without making you scratch your head in confusion.
There are four storylines and each is told in small chunks. First, we have poor Nevyn who has lived for 400 years and is in search of the current reincarnation of the five souls whose destiny he must set right. Then we have the original fiasco where a set of unfortunate choices results in the destruction those five lives, interfering in their predestined Wyrds. The story then switches between several other reincarnations that have taken place between the time of original events and Nevyn's current search. Confused yet? Well it does take some quick thinking at times but if you stick with it, it will all begin to make sense. Not only will it make sense but you will find yourself addicted to the story and losing whole chunks of your own life in the process. You will even find yourself trying to guess which person in each reincarnation matches one of the original five, or atleast I did. Trying to figure it out before Nevyn is half the fun!
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.
As far as content goes, this book has definite adult overtones, which should be taken into account. There is incest, moderate profanity, plenty of violence and a few mildly descriptive love scenes but nothing overly graphic. I am comfortable with saying it is readable by 16+ but that will depend on the maturity of the reader. As always, this is only my opinion and should be taken as such.
There is a reason why this series remains in print and I for one am grateful for this fact. Over the years, I have worn out or loaned out, and never gotten back, multiple copies of the books in this wonderful classic. Highly, highly recommended!
Shelfari Rating 4/5
Librarything Rating 3.78/5
Amazon Rating 4 out of 5 stars
(56 Customer Reviews)
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