Friday, 16 October 2009

A Time of Omens - Katharine Kerr

A Time of Omens is the second book of the second Deverry quartet, and this is no more than a competent entry. For some reason, despite the easy reading, it took me days to get through and I really struggled at times to muster much interest in the doings of Rhodry.

In this book he spends a number of years wandering in the Westlands, integrating himself into the lives of the Elcyion Lacar. It is, for an ex-gwerbret and ex-silver dagger, an idyllic life, which is cut short by the doings of one Alshandra (one-time lover of Evandar who we met for the first time in A Time of Exile). Evandar himself advises Rhodry to seek protection in the land of Deverry and he takes to the long road once more.

At the same time Jill has gone seeking the remnant of the Elven race who fled south when the Hordes destroyed their homelands. She and Salamander spend some time in Bardek, where he meets and marries the reborn soul of his previous love. He also decides that the dweomer is no longer his path.

We get the obligatory visit to a past incarnation of Rhodry (this time a continuation of the timeline where Maryn is become High King of all Deverry), and the book finishes off with a quick canter to a few years down the line (approx 1100, when most of the 'present' storyline has been 1090's up til now). Rhodry is older, but still doesn't look it - he and Yraen rescue a young lass who turns out to be carrying a very important child...

So, all of this brief outline of the plot shows that we are essentially reading a number of different short stories in our path to understanding the overall tapestry. I love all the interwoven threads, but I have an ongoing complaint that this does affect the pacing of each novel. Just when you are enjoying the stories of one set of characters, you pick up with another set and have to learn affection for them. It helps that Kerr is dealing with reborn souls, so they are essentially the same character, but they have enough differing characteristics for them to jar slightly until you begin to pick up and follow their particular storyline.

I love the fact that Perryn is still hovering in the background and stepping into the story here and there. Kerr never forgets a character once they've proved useful and been introduced.

The ending is pretty abrupt, and, up to that point, not a great deal really happened! The title of the book is well-chosen - this book seems to be all about omens and bad tidings coming together. I'm sure they are a huge foretelling for the next couple of novels - we also have the issue of Rhodry's ring to deal with. But we did seem to tread water a little bit while Kerr put everything in place ready for us to move forward to the big reveal.

The other issue with the pacing came from more time being spent in Evandar's dreamlike world than in prior books. The Guardians really aren't my favourite characters at all, and they don't endear themselves to me any more here. Evandar is full of riddles, which is incredibly frustrating. Kerr does a good job in developing his character, being as he is supposed to be unable to feel compassion or understand human emotions. It doesn't help in making me want to read about his storyline.

So, a disappointing entry into the Deverry series, but a necessary one. Big warning here: new readers should not step into the Deverry series at this point! Go all the way back to Daggerspell!

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