I first read this book over twenty-five years ago and have just finished my first re-reading of it. The only thing that may put people off, and did give me pause, is the very thing that becomes the book's (and the series') strength. This is a story that revolves around reincarnation (into new people) and tracks a small group of souls over many centuries. But, of course it slowly becomes clear that these are the same people and that we are seeing the start of the entanglement that keeps them reappearing in each other's lives down the centuries.
One of my favorite things about the series is the complexity of character development. The central characters in this series are drawn together across space and time because four hundred years ago, family obligations, injustice and tragedy occurred in such a way as to bind their threads together. What adds depth and complexity to the overall plot is that the characters are working out their Wyrd in three different time periods. Star two: character development. Star three: nicely developed plot with what could have been very conventional fantasy--yes, there are serfs and nobles, and battles, and elves and even a dwarf, but they are done in a way that feels real, and emphasizes the loss as much as the magic.
Daggerspell is an epic fantasy novel built on the idea of reincarnation. As I read this novel, I was confronted with my feelings about that inalienable destiny. The blessing in this novel was that one man, Nevyn, which sounds like no one has lived through three lives and walks that anguished road with those people who he failed to help the first time. Another integral part of this novel is the Welsh-like feel to their world. He had vowed to help her find her destiny, and it took him three life cycles to do it. He was a decent person, a little spoiled, but I didnt feel he was Jills wyrd, at least not in a good way. In the first life cycle, it was like watching a car wreck before it happens, I mean literally. It took some fortification to keep reading after that, but part of me couldnt let go of this story because like any good fiction novel, it made me ask the central question. Im not a believer in reincarnation, but the way things work out for the characters in that life cycle kind of made me glad that it exists in this novel. The idea of having to work out the consequences of the choices you make in life resonates with me, and for a foundation of a fantasy novel, it works surprisingly well.
I understand her characters and what they think and feel and most importantly why they make the choices they do. The book reads like its some weird out of body experience. I feel like a shadow or ghost reading about these characters.
I did not remember everything (srsly it was years ago, I read them in Swedish so I had to be like 11-13.) I loved Rhodri and I wanted him and Jill to be together foreeeever. But every time something comes in his way. I do like Jill, she was naive in a good way. *cringes* *past lives horrors* Here he is a good man, but yeah, you have to read it. I do feel like the blame could be put on another ahole and not the one one would think. Sometimes I think the past lives drama are the most interesting. One thing missing in the audiobook is the who was who. Awww, it was so lovely re'reading this book in a way. I like how young she made Jill be.
What is really interesting is that in this world people have a 'Wyrd', a kind of fate that they need to work out and it can take many lifetimes to achieve. So with all characters here we spend most of our time in the 'current' timeline but we also have two other stories of their previous lives and we can see how their fates became entangled.
The Deverry saga is a long fantasy saga, but the great thing is that the it is organized in cycles, the first one being the first 4 books ("The Deverry cycle"). The story is set in an alternative 11th century, Kerr imagining a celtic culture having survived and evolved into the Middle Ages thanks to a group of Gaulish-like people having settled long ago in a new territory. Our heroes are Jill, Rhodry, Cullyn and Nevyn. Jill, orphan of mother since she was 7 but now a young adult, follows her father Cullyn on "the long road". A magic common folk is afraid of or don't believe in, but that is truly known only by long trained dweomermasters. The great originality of course of this saga is to make the readers discover in long flashbacks the past lives of our heroes. It's true that Kerr doesn't hesitate in taking risks with her story and she explores new territories. Anyway Kerr's writing is always classy and careful, and the books remain material suitable for teens, there's nothing "sordid" here. The "sexual scenes" (not yet in Book 1) are necessary because a dark character is involved in ritual sex, and later a protagonist is sexually abused.
I had read the first two books in this series way back, probably over 25 years ago. But over the years, through one form or another, I have accumulated the entire series with the idea of one day reading through them all. I realized with this novel (and the entire series of 15 novels), that I would need a way to keep track of them all, especially given that we're dealing with reincarnations of the same characters over many time periods and mostly with different names. After all, just knowing that Garreant in the year 643 is the same person (in reincarnated form) as Cullyn in the 1060s isn't enough because that character will have 8 other reincarnations over the entire series, all with different names.