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The Red Wyvern
Katharine Kerr
Bantam Spectra, 340 pages

The Red Wyvern
Katharine Kerr
Katharine Kerr is the author of the popular Deverry series of fantasy novels which started with Daggerspell, and continued with Darkspell, The Bristling Wood, The Dragon Revenant, and several others. Her Westlands series includes A Time of Exile and A Time of Omens. She is also the author of the SF novel Polar City Blues and the editor of the World Fantasy Award nominated anthology, The Shimmering Door. She maintains a site with sample chapters from most of her work. The Deverry home page is another excellent resource for fans of Kerr's creations.

Katharine Kerr Home Page
ISFDB Bibliography
Katharine Kerr Tribute Page
Katharine Kerr Tribute Page

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

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The Red Wyvern is Katharine Kerr's latest book of Deverry and the Westlands. It is also the first book in her new series, The Dragon Mage. A word of advice to those who have not read Kerr's other Deverry books: read them first before attempting to read The Red Wyvern. While Kerr is a wonderful story-teller, the Deverry saga is too complex to allow her to include enough background and supplemental information to enable a neophyte to fully understand and enjoy this book. There is a glossary, but that only helps with the unfamiliar words.

Throughout Kerr's books there is an underlying concept of Wyrd. In her words, Wyrd is: "Fate, destiny; the inescapable problems carried over from a sentient being's last incarnation." People's Wyrds become intertwined and as they are reincarnated, those people's paths have a way of crossing over and over again. And therein lies the problem. To understand the conflict between, for example, Niffa and Raena, you have to go back over 250 years to the original conflict between Lillorigga and her mother Merodda. Not all paths cross in every lifetime, but inexplicable attraction or hostility between individuals can sometimes be traced back to their Wyrds and their interactions in past lives. Although there is a small table in the back of the book listing people and their various reincarnations in three different eras, it is insufficient if you don't already know the characters. It would have been helpful if Kerr had included an appendix cross-referencing all the characters, explaining not only who they are (or were), but also describing their relationships with the other characters.

The Red Wyvern starts off with an unnecessary prologue that is confusing for a reader familiar with Kerr's other books, and undoubtedly bewildering for any other reader. On the verge of dying from exposure on the shores of Loch Ness, a Scotsman is rescued by Evandar and sent via magic to the isle of Lady Angmar. We know (if we've read the other books) that Lady Angmar is the beloved of Rhodry Maelwaedd, and that the isle was secreted away by magic to save its inhabitants from being invaded. Domnall Breich speaks with the inhabitants of the isle, including the dwarf Otho, a good friend of Rhodry. After spending the night on the isle, Domnall is returned to his homeland, and we are left wondering about the purpose of his visit.

Part One begins with Dallandra, an Elven mage, and Rhodry Maelwaedd, a half-Elf, in the keep of Gwerbret Cadmar in the year 1116. There's a war going on but that's not part of this story. The story here involves Rhodry and the Raven Woman who is invading his dreams. The Raven Woman is Raena, whose power was once given to her by Alshandra, but is now being supported by Evandar's brother, Shaetano. Also in the dun is Cara, Princess Carramaena of the Westlands, and her daughter, Elessario. Elessario contains the reincarnation of Evandar's daughter. Evandar is a powerful being, called a Guardian by the Elvish people. Confused yet? It just gets more complicated. Raena is sheltering in Cerr Cawnen, the city where Jahdo, Rhodry's ward, is from. Rhodry has sworn to return Jahdo to his home. Who is Jahdo? If you've read the other books you would know that Jahdo was the assistant of a bard who was killed in Days of Air and Darkness. Also in Cerr Cawnen is Niffa, a young woman with budding dweomer powers. Raena hates Niffa, and the reason for that hatred is the main portion of the book. If you don't recognize the names above, The Red Wyvern is going to be confusing at best. You may want to dust off Days of Blood and Fire and Days of Air and Darkness and give them a quick reread before digging into The Red Wyvern.

Part Two of the book takes place during the Civil Wars. The conflict is between King Olaen, a mere five years old, and Prince Maryn, whom the gods have blessed as the true king. Lillorigga is a daughter of the Boar Clan and is the king's cousin. Her uncle, Burcan, is the regent to the young king and her mother, Merodda is the Queen's closest confidant, who is a troubled young woman married to a boy king. Lillorigga has the dweomer, magic, and is used by her mother to scry and look for omens. When Lillorigga's foster mother is murdered in a cruel plot by Merodda, Lillorigga flees with her foster father, who goes to join Maryn and his army. With Lillorigga's help and that of Nevyn, a Dweomaster, Maryn's army is able to infiltrate the dun of the Boar Clan and capture King Olaen, thus ensuring Maryn's victory. The conflict between Lillorigga and Merodda is established, as well, and continues in 1116 between Raena and Niffa.

That's just a small taste of what's happening in The Red Wyvern. Unfortunately, I was left wishing that Rhodry's tale had been advanced more. Almost 250 pages are dedicated to the story of the Civil War between Olaen and Maryn and the conflict between Lillorigga and Merodda. Some holes are filled in for those reading the entire saga, but for others, more questions are raised than answered. I enjoy the action in the Deverry books and I especially enjoy the tales involving Nevyn, the Dweomaster. In this book, however, his role is minimal. Still, the story of Rhodry, Jahdo, Niffa, Evandar, and the others is a fascinating tale. But while learning more about the history of Deverry and Westlands is interesting, we already know the main outcome. We know that Maryn won; until now we just weren't sure of the details. But with the "current" story, we cannot be sure where it is headed and what the outcome will be. And that is why we read on. Presumably the story set in 1117 will be advanced in the remainder of the books of The Dragon Mage.

Copyright © 1997 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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