The Black Raven: Kerr writes the past so beautifully

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy novel reviews Katharine Kerr Deverry The Red WyvernThe Black Raven by Katharine Kerr

The Black Raven is the second book in the Dragon Mage sequence of Deverry from Katharine Kerr. Once again, we spend the majority of the book in the past, exploring Lillorigga’s burgeoning dweomer power and her relationship to the various souls she is destined to encounter again when she becomes Niffa in the future. At the moment, it is fairly confusing trying to keep straight who is who in both the past and the current incarnations. The only person who I can really keep straight is Maddyn the bard (in the past) becoming Rhodry Maelwaedd (in the present), and this is due to the silver rose ring.

Once again, I would urge anyone interested in this book to start at the beginning of the series (starting with Daggerspell). Kerr has explained that her books should be seen almost as three acts in a play, or as a Celtic knot, whereby the complicated pattern will only become clear once you have seen the whole.

Although I adore spending time in the past — particularly with Lillorigga, who I believe to be one of Kerr’s strongest characters — I became frustrated with the fact that Rhodry’s story has not progressed AT ALL in two books. He is still sitting in Cengarn, waiting for the longest winter in the world to end so that his plot can move forward. The only times we ever visit Rhodry is when he figures in storylines from the past, such as the history of his enmity with Raena.

That said, The Black Raven is still worthy of four stars in my opinion, because Kerr writes the past so beautifully. In fact, barring the few outright mentions of dweomer or Wildfolk, this could be a strong historical novel about Celtic times. Kerr brings to life the politics, the in-fighting, the heraldry, the weaponry. It is very easy to enjoy all of the little details that she adds. One I would mention is the fact that the characters’ knowledge of medicine and surgery is limited to what was actually known at that time. So, when the princess Bellyra is suffering from postnatal depression, Nevyn talks about her humours being out of balance. I also love how he ponders why some wounds fester, while others don’t, and why blood can be different colours depending on where the body is cut in battle. These are all matters that would frustrate the chirurgeons of the time.

Nevyn’s return is deeply welcome, both in this novel and the previous. During the Westlands cycle he was absent, and I found Jill unable to fill his shoes. Despite his massive dweomer power, he is wise and compassionate and enjoys the details of people’s lives. He takes apprentices willingly and with patience. He is one of the strongest parts of the Deverry series, and it is a joy to read more of him.

All in all, I really enjoyed The Black Raven and cantered through the rather slight volume (in comparison to prior books in the series). I’m looking forward to the next.

Deverry — (1986-2009) Publisher: Even as a young girl,  Jill was a favorite of the magical, mysterious  Wildfolk, who appeared to her from their invisible  realm. Little did she know her extraordinary  friends represented but a glimpse of a forgotten past  and a fateful future. Four hundred years-and many  lifetimes-ago, one selfish young lord caused the  death of two innocent lovers. Then and there he  vowed never to rest until he’d rightened that  wrong — and laid the foundation for the lives of Jill  and all those whom she would hold dear: her  father, the mercenary soldier Cullyn; the exiled  berserker Rhodry Maelwaedd; and the ancient and  powerful herbman Nevyn, all bound in a struggle against  darkness… and a quest to fulfill the  destinies determined centuries ago. Here in this newly  revised edition comes the incredible novel that  began one of the best-loved fantasy seers in recent  years — a tale of bold adventure and timeless  love, perilous battle and pure magic.

Act one: Deverry — In the UK, the third book is Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood, and the fourth book is Dragonspell: The Southern Sea.

Katharine Kerr Deverry Daggerspell, Darkspell, The Bristling Wood, The Dragon RevenantKatharine Kerr Deverry Daggerspell, Darkspell, The Bristling Wood, The Dragon RevenantKatharine Kerr Deverry Daggerspell, Darkspell, The Bristling Wood, The Dragon RevenantKatharine Kerr Deverry Daggerspell, Darkspell, The Bristling Wood, The Dragon Revenant

Act two: The Westlands — in the UK, the third book is A Time of War and the fourth book is A Time of Justice.

Deverry Katherine Kerr The Westlands: A Time of Exile, A Time of Omens, Days of Blood and Fire, Days of Air and DarknessDeverry Katherine Kerr The Westlands: A Time of Exile, A Time of Omens, Days of Blood and Fire, Days of Air and DarknessDeverry Katherine Kerr The Westlands: A Time of Exile, A Time of Omens, Days of Blood and Fire, Days of Air and DarknessDeverry Katherine Kerr The Westlands: A Time of Exile, A Time of Omens, Days of Blood and Fire, Days of Air and Darkness

Act three: The Dragon Mage

Katharine Kerr Deverry Dragon Mage: The Red Wyvern, The Black Raven, The Fire DragonKatharine Kerr Deverry Dragon Mage: The Red Wyvern, The Black Raven, The Fire DragonKatharine Kerr Deverry Dragon Mage: The Red Wyvern, The Black Raven, The Fire Dragon

Act four: The Silver Wyrm — in the UK, these are continuations of Act Three: The Dragon Mage.

Katharine Kerr Deverry The Silver Wyrm: 1. The Gold Falcon 2. The Spirit Stone 3. The Shadow Isle 4. The Silver MageKatharine Kerr Deverry The Silver Wyrm: 1. The Gold Falcon 2. The Spirit Stone 3. The Shadow Isle 4. The Silver MageKatharine Kerr Deverry The Silver Wyrm: 1. The Gold Falcon 2. The Spirit Stone 3. The Shadow Isle 4. The Silver MageKatharine Kerr Deverry The Silver Wyrm: 1. The Gold Falcon 2. The Spirit Stone 3. The Shadow Isle 4. The Silver Mage


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AMANDA RUTTER, one of our guest reviewers, used to be an accountant in the UK but she escaped the world of numbers and is now living in a fantasy world she creates. She runs Angry Robot's YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. And we knew her when....

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