REVIEW: 'The Red Wyvern' by Katharine Kerr

For those of you who don't know, wyvern (or wyrm) means dragon.

This is the 9th book in Kerr's Deverry series of novels, and the first book of her third "act," The Dragon Mage.

I've been obsessed with this fantasy novel series ever since high school, when my friend introduced me to them.  She told me it was Celtic-inspired fantasy, and included a lot of magic and reincarnation...oh yeah, and watch out for the incest.  But honestly, she had me at reincarnation.  At the time, I was developing my interest in the idea (of reincarnation, not incest!  I know you're still stuck on that word), so I picked up my own copy (or maybe I borrowed hers) and dove right in.

I became obsessed.

The overarching storyline of the first two acts follows a particular soul that is destined for greatness.  However, before said soul can achieve said greatness at the predetermined moment, the body it's inhabiting dies, the death caused by a foolish young lord.  When the lord realizes what strands of fate he's broken, he vows he will never rest until the wrong is righted.  The vow is accepted by the "higher powers," we'll say, and he is granted the ability to follow the soul through many subsequent lives -- aging, but never dying.  Each book details a life or two of this soul, and the subtle efforts of the lord, now called Nevyn, to steer the soul back to greatness.  It takes many lives, because Nevyn can't just come out and explain the situation.  For one, most human beings don't believe in reincarnation, or have ever heard of it; and two, the soul has to find its path willingly.  However, it's not just a lot of day-to-day medieval chores you're reading about, waiting around for this soul to become enlightened.  There's love, war, and in the meantime, Nevyn himself becomes quite the talented sorcerer (or whatever you call those in Celtic fantasy).  There's the essential plot-moving fight against Darkness/ which enter the other planes of existence, which I won't go into because I still have a hard time explaining them to myself.

However much I've loved this series, though, in The Red Wyvern, first book of the third act, I'm not quite sure where Kerr is going, and I can't really tell you why (too many spoiler alerts).  However, her writing still hooks me, even after nine years of reading.  She works hard to maintain realistic diction (I'm pretty sure "Oh, by the black hairy ass of the Lord of Hell" is the one expression I'll always remember), and even includes a pronunciation guide in the back of the books.  Also included is a table of reincarnations, so it's easier to follow which character comes back in what form...because obviously, it's not just the one soul that reincarnates -- it's everyone, and they all tend to stick together through their various lives.

I will say this latest bored me just the slightest.  I'm not sure if it has to do with the fact that I'm older, or that I'm not as emotionally attached to the emerging storyline.  The book is called The Red Wyvern, but the dragon I was expecting never showed up.  I suppose I'll have to continue reading...which is ok by me.  Kerr has never really steered me wrong before, and I have no real reason to doubt she would now.

NEXT UP: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.  Who doesn't love libraries that turn out famed cats?

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