Monday, September 10, 2007

The Spirit Stone - Katherine Kerr

This is the latest in Kerr's Deverry sequence, now clocking in at 13 volumes; it emphatically does not work as a standalone book, so if you're a stranger to the world of Deverry then this will not be for you (start at the beginning and come back when you get this far). The current storyline is continuing the war between the human-elf-dwarf alliance and their false-goddess-worshipping Horsekin enemies, with the usual flashback section covering the events of a century or so previously, where the elves were much younger and the humans were in previous incarnations. Kerr has said that she intended her intertwining timelines to resemble Celtic knotwork, and it certainly feels like that as the tale loops back and forth, now giving us the roots of events that came about several books previously.

That being said, the strands are not tremendously complicated, and by this point it feels more like a lengthy soap-opera than a tightly-plotted thriller. Dallandra's pregnant - can she avoid making the same mothering mistakes that she made with her firstborn Loddlaen? Will Branna and Neb recover the memories of their past lives in time to save the world? Can Rori forgive the reincarnation of an old traitor, and will he find the secret of recovering his human form? For all the battles and magical death, this is the fantasy equivalent of a nice pair of comfy slippers; it's pleasantly familiar and not particularly challenging.

If you've come this far in the series, then you'll know what to expect, and it's really more of the same. The world is unoriginal but well-realised; the device of reincarnation is entertaining and all starting to come together; the characters are accessible and yet still authentic to the setting. One thing I'd definitely recommend though is doing a bit of homework before you start, and reminding yourself who's who (and what all the connections are) - I neglected to do this and so spent half the book being quite confused, having forgotten that Ebañy was Salamander's real name, among other things. As an addition to the series, it doesn't advance the plot a whole lot, but it does fill in some of the gaps in Deverry's history - not an essential read, but a pleasant one nonetheless.



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