Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Shadow Isle by Katherine Kerr

I'iiiim baaaack...

and I don't have much time right now to compose a review. So let's see if I can succeed at a little brevity for once.

Basically, this is the most recent novel in Katherine Kerr's series of Deverry novels. I started in the series years ago and have liked it enough to stay with it, although as is the case with most sprawling series, they tend to drag at you more and more each time a new one comes out.

Hurricane Ike took out our power, but that was all I needed to get back into the habit of reading. With a good booklight and no job for a few days, I actually put away two books in about a week. Yay me. The library will be especially glad to have their book returned (and after only two renewals).

So, I see this series as more of a guilty pleasure or fanclub fiction than anything. I have really enjoyed the books, especially in the beginning, but at the same time, they have blended together so much that even after just finishing The Shadow Isle, I can hardly recall what took place in it. I still want to read about Rhodry, Jill, and Nevyn, but unfortunately, two of them have died and reincarnated into new characters by this time, and the other has been transformed into a dragon, and seems to be stuck with a dilemma of returning to human form or remain a wyrm.

So, yeah, I said that the characters reincarnate. Think soap opera, but instead of miraculous "he didn't die, his surgeons reattached his head and he's been in recovery for the last 20 years" situations, people do die, but come back quickly as a new child, strangely close enough to still be interacting with other souls from previous lives. Sometimes they remember little bits, or feel strange likes/dislikes for people they've never (or so they think) met before.

It is all Celtic fantasy, and I believe Kerr (any relation to Steve Kerr from the Spurs?) does a good job of capturing their culture, mythology, speech, etc. Then again, my knowledge of Celtic culture is about as dismal as my knowledge of most other cultures, and it wouldn't take much to fool me. About the only thing I can say to defend my belief that she's authentic is that she is quite consistent, so that it seems genuine. Plus other people say it's authentic. Personally, and this may bother some people, I'm not even sure on the correct pronunciation of the word "Celtic" thanks to Boston (two basketball references in the same post?). And is there a difference between that and Gaelic?

Well, mix in a few races (horsekin, elves, dwarves, and otherland creatures like gnomes), a very feudal society like medieval England, dweomer (magic), and reincarnation, and you've got a different sort of tale. But it will get to be too much in the end, perhaps like remembering which Hardy Boys novel such-and-such happened in. There is a handy reincarnation chart in the back, but it becomes a tangled web anyway, and unlike other readers, I'm much too lazy to really get all the relationships figured out. Leave that for the women.

So I enjoyed it, but only marginally so. As the third book in the subset "Silver Wyrm" grouping of Deverry novels, I was hoping to find a conclusion to the battles with the horsekin, but instead I felt like the plot only advanced a little. The upcoming war is still pretty upcoming, though there was a skirmish. For now, it will have to do.

Perhaps I'm daft (a frequent adjective from the series), but I will continue reading it because I like it. On the other hand, I can't see much reason for anyone to read The Shadow Isle, because if the series intrigues you, you should go to the beginning and get what seems to be a more dramatic introduction to the lives of the people of Deverry.


Amanda said...

Glad you're back Byron and that the hurricane left you guys (relatively) unscathed.

Julie said...

It's good to read another review from you, Byron. Even though it was because of Hurricane Ike, it's nice for you to have had a chance to catch up on reading. I hope things are a bit 'back to normal' for you now.