Childe Morgan

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.

The final verdict: 7.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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!

The Chronicles of the Deryni

- Deryni Rising (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Deryni Checkmate (Canada, USA, Europe)

- High Deryni (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Legends of Camber of Culdi

- Camber of Culdi (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Saint Camber (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Camber the Heretic (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Histories of King Kelson

- The Bishop's Heir (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The King's Justice (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Quest for Saint Camber (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Heirs of Saint Camber

- The Harrowing of Gwynedd (Canada, USA, Europe)

- King Javan's Year (Canada, USA, Europe)

- The Bastard Prince (Canada, USA, Europe)

King Kelson's Bride (Canada, USA, Europe)

In the King's Service (Canada, USA, Europe)

Childe Morgan (Canada, USA, Europe)

Deryni Anthologies

- The Deryni Archives (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Deryni Magic (Canada, USA, Europe)

- Deryni Tales (Canada, USA, Europe)

For more information about this genre-defining historical fantasy series, check out the wikipage devoted to the Deryni saga.

9 commentaires:

Ash said...

I loved those books when I was younger - maybe I should pick them up again. Kurtz is one of the few authors who really made me feel for her characters; I remember not being able to sleep the night after finishing King Javan's Year.

Ted Cross said...

It's been many years since I read those. I loved them so much that I really want to read them again. I just have so many others to read, and there are so many of these, but I will get to them again someday.

anrake said...

I actually read these last fall on our recommendation. Great stuff. For each trilogy I just had to pick up the next book and start reading as soon as I finished the last page of each book. Even with Malazan, I felt OK taking a break in between each, but not with this.

Melanie said...

Me too!

Based on your recommendation, I bought 7 books at a used bookstore for only 3$. Godawful covers and all! Got the 5 missing Deryni volumes on amazon to complete the 4 trilogies. Went through them in a matter of a couple of weeks. Taken together, this series is as good as anything I've read.

This reminds me that I need to see if I can find cheap copies of the last 3 books. Happy to see that Childe Morgan is good!:D

Kendall said...

Timely post! I'm listening to Deryni Rising right now, which was the first Deryni book I read (many years ago). I'm enjoying returning to it with the audiobook and I recommend it--it's well done. I plan to get the other two audiobooks in the original trilogy, too. The other trio of audiobooks (I think it's "The Histories of King Kelson") have a different narrator who doesn't sound quite as good from the samples, but I'll probably give that a shot, too.

I haven't read Childe Morgan or the one before it yet, which is very embarrassing since this series is also one of my all-time faves. I'm figuring between the audiobook and your review, I'm back in Deryni mode and may pick it up finally.

Jeff said...

Like many, I have very fond memories of reading these when I was kid. I'm reluctant to revisit them though. I'm afraid they would come across as rather simplistic Young Adult books to me now.

Can anyone comment?

Kendall said...

Jeff: IMHO they hold up well and don't feel YA. Granted, I haven't reread them in quite a while. Maybe I'm confident since I enjoyed them so much and have re-read them over the years.

I'm listening to Deryni Rising and while its the first she wrote and is a bit simpler than later ones, even it holds up well, I feel.

But as always, YMMV. My take on YA and yours may differ, anyway. I'm mostly not interested in YA, though, but still enjoy these books.

Unknown said...

Is the third book in the Childe Morgan trilogy EVER going to be released? It seems like she's given up the universe.

Anonymous said...

I took your advice and grabbed a secondhand copy of Deryni Rising when I saw it recently in one of very few English language bookshops here in Seoul.

I was disappointed. I made it through the first chapter, but the level of the writing is extremely basic, full of clichés and shallow characterisation. To compare it to Young Adult fiction is to do a disservice to YA. I stopped at that point; as one of my favourite grown-up writers, Stephen R Donaldson would say - life's too short to read bad books.