With The Gold Falcon Katharine Kerr is starting a new phase in the Deverry story. We move on fifty years or so from the climactic ending of The Fire Dragon, and times have changed. The Horsekin have started marauding the Deverry border, killing the men and enslaving the women. There is a fragile alliance between the Deverry folk, the Rhiddaer and the West Folk (Kerr's version of elves). And Alshandra's repute as a goddess is growing, Raena now considered a martyr to the cause.
Our main dweomer workers that hold the book together here are Dallandra and Salamander, who has fought hard to retrieve his sanity. The latter rescues two young lads from the slaughter of their village by Horsekin, and takes them to the sanctuary of Tieryn Cadryc's dun. Neb, the older of the two, is a very familiar soul to Salamander - finally the soul of Nevyn has been reborn. In the same Dun he discovers the reborn soul of Cullyn (now called Gerran) and Jill (now called Branna), and realises that important times are coming.
This book fits well into the overall sequence of Deverry novels, but on its own is not *that* entertaining, since it is mostly setting up future events. It was interesting enough seeing Neb and Branna be drawn to each other, and to discover their potential dweomer power. It was also frustrating and heartbreaking to hear about Rhodry's current plight (as the dragon Rori). Mostly we are being given hints as the extent of the doom that awaits if the Horsekin cannot be stopped.
Kerr writes fantastically well about the medieval life of Deverry. Every little detail reinforces the fact that she has enormous skill at world building, such as hearing about each gwerbret's hall having an honour side (for the nobles) and a riders side (for the common born). We hear about the women having to make marriages for the sake of bloodlines and needing to be above reproach so that no one can doubt the parentage of the heirs to come.
Equally, she gives us a completely different culture when we ride with the West Folk on the plainlands - here, the women have much more freedom and there is a casual approach to leadership. The marked difference between the two people is emphasised well by Kerr.
I did enjoy this book, but it took a good fifty pages before I relaxed into the new characters - especially with Nevyn and Jill carrying different names and essentially being fresh to the story. In some respects it is great having familiar characters turn up again in the Deverry novel - it lends the books a feeling of comfort - but in other respects it can be hard to invest in the new character as much as you did in the old. I like Neb, but I liked Nevyn more; on the other hand I far prefer Branna to Jill, so I guess it runs both ways!
To recap, a decent enough entry into the Deverry sequence, but certainly not a standalone novel and mostly set up future events. Slightly disappointing after the brilliance of The Fire Dragon.
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