Sunday, April 27, 2008

Book: The Bastard Prince (Heirs of Saint Camber #3) - Katherine Kurtz, and a recommendation on where to start!

I actually finished this one about a week ago, but needed to think on it awhile. I wanted to “review” it, but wonder if many people that might read this blog would be completely lost as this particular book really requires having read a lot of the ones before it to be able to completely experience it. I’ll give a short little blurb here about The Bastard Prince in particular, and then a little more about the Deryni in general, with my recommendation on where to start!

The Bastard Prince is the third in the Heirs of Saint Camber series, and tells the story of Rhys Michael Haldane’s attempt at freeing the Haldane line from the great lords of Gwenydd who have served as the regents for his two brothers before him. It is a story of sacrifice, and of a young man forced to play a very dangerous game of deception, in constant fear of the safety of his loved ones, and under the threat of losing his own life. To say much more is to give away the story of this one, so I’ll move on to talk about the Deryni series as a whole.

While the Deryni books are found in the Fantasy section, to me they read much more like historical fiction, I’m going to say of medieval England/Scotland/Ireland-esque areas, and not being a historian I can’t really say if any parts of the story are reflective of actual historical events, but the feel is there. Add to this the conflict of some individuals with magical abilities (the Deryni) in a time period of rigid religious beliefs and policies, and you can guess where much of the plot lines center, the persecution of a people by those who fear their powers.

The sympathies of the stories are obviously on the side of the Deryni, who even with their considerable powers are often forced into hiding and fighting for their lives. In many cases they are a deeply religious people, making their persecution from that quarter all the more heartbreaking for them, and much of their magic involves religious ritual. There are differing opinions on the order to read the books in, I actually started with The Bishop’s Heir, not knowing it was the first of the second trilogy centered around Kelson Haldane, the latest Haldane King. I first read this in junior high, and that’s been a few years now, so I can’t remember if I had trouble picking up the story elements that had gone before, but it hooked me, and I’ve read just about all of them now (I still need to read the King Kelson’s Bride, and the new trilogy about Morgan). My own suggestion would be to read them in this order:

1. Deryni Rising (1970)
2. Deryni Checkmate (1972)
3. High Deryni (1973)

King Kelson
1. The Bishop's Heir (1984)
2. The King's Justice (1985)
3. The Quest for Saint Camber (1986)
4. King Kelson's Bride (1997)

Camber of Culdi
1. Camber of Culdi (1976)
2. Saint Camber (1978)
3. Camber the Heretic (1981)

Heirs of Saint Camber
1. The Harrowing of Gwynedd (1989)
2. King Javan's Year (1992)
3. The Bastard Prince (1994)

Deryni (2)
1. In the King's Service (2003)
2. The Childe Morgan (2006)
3. No title yet ???

My reasoning for this is that honestly I like the books of Kelson more than Camber, and that may just be because I read them first. I believe Katherine Kurtz herself suggests to read them in the order they were published. Basically by the time of Kelson, Camber had become regarded as a controversial saint with quite a mind of his own, and he appears periodically throughout the stories long after his death, so it’s kind of fun to read them with him being a mystery figure, and THEN go back and read his story in Camber of Culdi. Definitely read Heirs of Saint Camber AFTER Camber of Culdi.

I think these speak to me because I like historical fiction and fantasy and those feelings mesh very nicely in these books.

I also highly recommend Kurtz’s Adept series, a different feel, modern day, but still centered on individuals with supernatural abilities, and heavily into ritual magic:

Adept (with Deborah Turner Harris)
1. The Adept (1991)
2. The Lodge of the Lynx (1992)
3. The Templar Treasure (1993)
4. Dagger Magic (1995)
5. Death of an Adept (1996)

In my opinion, these were kind of precursors to some popular series today, like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series and others of similar style, and I think that fans of the magical/paranormal/mystery combination would enjoy them. I know I did!

You can check out Katherine Kurtz’ home page HERE where there is more and better information on the Deryni than I could possibly give. ;)

My listings above came from the Katherine Kurtz page of, one of my favorite resources!

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