A fan of the series for over two decades, it's always with great pleasure that I return to the Deryni universe. Now 40+ years in the making, Katherine Kurtz's landmark series seldom fails to satisfy. Sadly, though she is likely the mother of historical fantasy, over the years the NYT bestselling Deryni saga has become out of print and thus a bit harder to find. Which means that an entire generation of SFF readers have yet to get acquainted with this classic sequence of books.
Moreover, other than the the very first trilogy (which, truth to tell, is perhaps the weakest in the saga) being reissued recently, what Deryni novels still in print (King Kelson's Bride, In the King's Service, and Childe Morgan) are more or less meant to bridge various gaps in the saga's timeline instead of focusing on new storylines that could perhaps entice new readers to plunge into the Deryni universe and fall in love with it and the great characters that populate its history.
Having said that, as a direct sequel to In the King's Service, Childe Morgan is sure to please Katherine Kurtz's fans awaiting new Deryni adventures. The events chronicled in this novel span a period of approximately two and a half years, covering Alaric Morgan's early childhood and what will lead to Kurtz's first trilogy.
Here's the blurb (patched from a Wikipedia entry, since the official blurb is nowhere to be found online):
The novel is set in the land of Gwynedd, one of the Eleven Kingdoms. Gwynedd itself is a medieval kingdom similar to the British Isles of the 11th century, with a powerful Holy Church (based on the Roman Catholic Church), and a feudal government ruled by a hereditary monarchy. The population of Gwynedd includes both humans and Deryni, a race of people with inherent psychic and magical abilities who have been persecuted and suppressed for almost two centuries. The novel details the early life of Alaric Morgan, a half-Deryni child chosen by King Donal Blaine Haldane to protect the royal legacy of arcane magic. However, Alaric is scorned by both humans and Deryni for his heritage, some of whom will stop at nothing to destroy the young boy.
As a prequel to The Deryni Chronicles series, like its predecessor Childe Morgan covers a lot of ground, paving the way to the book which started it all, Deryni Rising, about twenty-five years in the future. Familiar themes such as Mearan rebels, the Camberian Council's machinations, Torenthi incursions into Gwynedd, the Church's hatred toward Deryni, the separation between Church and State, and a monarch desperately attempting to protect his lineage feature quite prominently in this novel.
Kurtz's historian eye for details makes for beautiful and vivid worldbuilding. The richness of details and her depiction of medieval life creates an imagery which brings the world and its protagonists to life.
And yet, although Katherine Kurtz's worldbuilding skills are on par with gifted fantasy authors such as Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and R. Scott Bakker, it's the characterization which elevates her books over that of the competition and makes the Deryni Saga one of my most beloved series of all time. Not unlike Robin Hobb and Guy Gavriel Kay, Kurtz's subtle human touch can pull on those heartstrings when you least expect it. Damn her, but Kurtz managed to make my eyes water again! Few writers have the ability to create such genuine characters that you come to care about the way Katherine Kurtz can, seemingly effortlessly.
As was the case in In the King's Service, Lady Alyce de Corwyn takes center stage. Sir Kenneth Morgan, as Alaric's father, and King Donal Blaine Haldane, understandably, also have important roles to play. I have to admit that it was quite amusing to see Duncan McLain and Alaric Morgan, two of the most important power players in the struggle to come, as mischievous children playing in the mud!
Amid all the politicking, there are a number of poignant moments in Childe Morgan, especially in every scene featuring Sir Sé Trelawney, childhood friend of Lady Alyce and now a fully avowed Knight of the Anvil. Somehow, this character manages to steal the show every time he's present, even though it's done in a very subtle manner.
The pace is fluid throughout, the narrative fleshes out details we've been waiting for years to see unveiled. All too quickly, the end comes, with no other Deryni installment in sight for the near future.
As I mentioned before, I encourage everyone to give the Deryni Saga a shot. Believe you me: You won't be disappointed! Get it from the library, or buy it for peanuts via the links below or at used bookstores. But read it! For the best results, start with The Legends of Camber of Culdi, followed by The Heirs of Saint Camber. If it's youe cup of tea, you'll need no encouragement to read the rest of the Deryni Saga!