Monday, July 1, 2019

Romance In Fantasy Fiction: Katharine Kerr's "Daggerspell" and Love At First Meeting


Introduction: #YOR #RIFF

As recapped last month, I've dedicated 2019 as my Year of Romance (#YOR) here on Supernatural Underground, specifically Romance in Fantasy Fiction (#RIFF). Because it's love after all, that helps make our crazy old world go around (in addition to physics, that is! ;-) )

Also last month, I let you in on my sekret plan to alternate older Fantasy works with more recent titles. So since last month's title was a 2010 publication, which counts as recent by my book, given I started with Tolkien in the mid-1950s :-), this month I'm heading back to 1988, when Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell launched her wonderful Deverry series (or sequence of series, as it turned out.)

And because the #YOR #RIFF posts are building up now, I'll start listing the links to the preceding posts at the end of each installment. Now  onward to Daggerspell and the fateful "love at first meeting" between Jill and Rhodry.

Katharine Kerr's Daggerspell: Jill, Rhodry, and Love At First Meeting

Love at first sight is one of the great traditions of romantic love and Jill and Rhodry come close, being strongly attracted from their first meeting. I also said their meeting was "fateful" and that is also true, since fate, or wyrd, is one of the prime drivers in Katharine Kerr's tale of the Celtic world of Deverry.

In particular, the spirits and wyrds of four central characters are tied together through a succession of lives, because of initial tragic events. The first of the four is the sorcerer, Nevyn, who has sworn an oath not to rest until the old wrongs are righted. This has rendered him undying until the oath is fulfilled, so he is the only one of the four not to die and continually be reborn. The other three were originally Brangwen and Gerraent, a brother and sister, and Blaen, a friend to Geraint and in love with Brangwen. Nevyn was Brangwen's original betrothed before circumstances and his own youthful pride forced them apart.

In the story's present time, they are Jill (originally Brangwen), her father Cullyn, a "silver dagger" or mercenary soldier (originally Gerraent), and Rhodry (originally Blaen), who is heir to his mother's small kingdom (part of the wider kingdom of Deverry.) I say originally because they have all been through many lives between the original events and the present, some of which are also woven into Daggerspell

When it comes to romance, though, there are several time-honored aspects at play in the story. In addition to "love at first sight" and the "fated love" angle, there are also two triangles, in various permutations depending on how the reincarnated lives play out: Nevyn-Brangwen-Blaen; and Brangwen-Gerraent-Blaen. 

In terms of Jill and Rhodry's love, however, which is central to Daggerspell and the first Deverry quartet, another important aspect of that is "unequal love", i.e. Rhodry is a minor prince and Jill is a silver dagger's daughter, one who carries a silver dagger in her own right. Silver daggers are almost-but-not-quite outcasts, so that puts Cullyn and Jill at the bottom of the social order. 

Jill and Rhodry meet under exceptional circumstances, however, the sort that breaks down social barriers during the crisis. Part of that crisis, too, is a rebellion based on sorcery (called 'dweomer' in the Deverry world) and where Jill turns out to have a vital part of play  all of which conspires to throw Jill and Rhodry closer together, despite Nevyn and Cullyn's best endeavors otherwise.

And here's a wee excerpt from that first meeting:

"Jill turned to Cullyn and gave him a smile that made her beauty as delicate and glowing as that of any court lady. Rhodry's heart sank. It was cursed unfair of the gods to give a lass like this a father who happened to be the best swordsman in the whole wide kingdom of Deverry."

Overall, Daggerspell is a fantasy read I recommend, but if you like romance (#RIFF) to be as much part of your Fantasy reading as adventure and battles and magic, then I think you'll find a lot to enjoy as the Year of Romance (#YOR) rocks on. 

See you all again next month. :-)


List of Year of Romance in Fantasy Posts (so far):

March: JRR Tolkien and The Lord Of The Rings Effect
April: Laini Taylor's Daughter Of Smoke and Bone  "My Enemy, My Love"
May: Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed  "Constancy Amid Tumult"
June: Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven  "When Your Ship Doesn't Sail."


Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry; she also blogs and occasionally interviews fellow writers. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.

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