Friday, 16 October 2009

A Time of War - Katharine Kerr

A Time of War is the third book in the second Deverry quartet. Here all the action takes place in the present - we meet the Rhiddaer folk and the Gel Da'Thae (in the form of Jahdo and Meer), who quest to Deverry in search of Meer's brother. When they find him, they discover he is part of a major plot dreamt up by Alshandra in order to regain her daughter. At the same time Jill charges Rhodry to find the only weapon that will help the Deverrians in their war against the Horsekin and Alshandra's evil followers.

So, I was disappointed in this book - I feel as though Kerr has lost her way a little. One of the high points of her first quartet is the fact that the storyline flits back and forth in time, deepening your affection for various characters in the different lives they have lived. Here, when she moves to a more linear storyline, I find myself less entranced.

Part of the problem is that I'm finding it hard now to care about ANY of the characters. In a previous review for an earlier book, I noted that Jill is far less likeable as a dweomermaster than as a silver dagger. The last character that I held deep regard for is Rhodry and in this book he seemed to descend into a unique kind of madness. He speaks often of courting his Lady Death and Kerr over-uses the beserker howl of laughter that had, up to now, been used effectively to build Rhodry's character.

I already didn't care for either Evandar or Dallandra, and here they crop up time and again in a very tedious storyline about Dallandra being kidnapped by Evandar's brother. All the time spent in Evandar's dreamlike homeland is slow and plodding and doesn't seem to advance the plot at all.

I would also like to complain that there were a number of scenes where Jill did etheric scrying, or changed into her falcon , which seemed lifted in their entirety from earlier books. There are only so many times I can read that without becoming bored.

I did like a number of aspects of the book. These included the touching scenes between Jill and Rhodry as they reached out in friendship and found a sort of reconciliation. Also, Kerr is extremely able at drawing distinctions between each of the different locations - in previous books, Bardek has been richly imagined; here we delve more into the homeland of the dwarves, which is given a very different feel to the other lands. Her world-building is on a more cosy scale than, say, the GRRM's of the world, but very effective nonetheless.

Despite the fact that the idea of a dragon is brought into the story in an abrupt manner (barring one brief paragraph two books ago), the introduction of Arzosah adds at least half a star to my rating. If you are as fond of decently-written dragon characters as I am, you will love Arzosah, who is both beautiful and slyly clever. The dialogue between her and Rhodry lends real vigour to the last part of the book.

This is a real lapse in form compared to the previous books, but I have high hopes of the last book in this quartet where a number of plot points should be resolved satisfactorily.

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