When the Deryni overlords are finally overthrown by the humans it is with the help of Camber of Culdi. Camber also discovers that with "certain actions" humans can also have the full range of magic powers exercised by the Deryni. After the humans are/were freed they rejoiced and there was a time (apparently 10 to 15 years) when the Deryni people (the people other than the overlords) and the humans worked and lived together in peace. At the time of the book, the "church" as a whole is still condemning of Deryni because of (it is claimed) the use of magic. The Story follows the events which take place after Brion the King of Gwynedd is murdered and his son Kelson is to take the throne. A Deryni sorceress (Charissa) intends to "take back" the crown through a magical challenge to Kelson at his coronation. As the "special power" of the kings of Gwynedd had sufficed for Brion to defeat Charissa's father, she plots to keep Kelson from receiving those powers. What kind of idiot drinks from a bottle given to him by a stranger for no apparent reason, much less gives it to the KING? Kelson hasn't received Brion's power and now "things look bad".
The race-hatred which under-girds the characters' willingness to believe lies about the framed parties is definitely a feature worth exploring and, to her credit, she does manage to show it FAR more than tell it. But again, after the fifth time it started to just feel silly.
(In the end I wasn't convinced that the good guys and bad guys were all that different from each other, despite the narrative's insistence that they were.) And there are the adverbs, which make this novel feel very, very old. Ugh. Aside from being flawless and objectively good, two of our main heroes gain super-powerful magic abilities just as they are needed. There's a hint in one scene that Morgan is exhausted after casting a protection spell over the sleeping Kelson, but a couple hours later he is able to heal his mortally wounded friend to full health with magic, with no weariness or other side effect. It's unsurprising that the magic-wielding Deryni were dictators back in this novel's history, until they were deposed.... The main villain of the story is a woman, and Kelson's mother Jehana also has a role to play, but other than them and a couple of random serving women who show up for one scene and are never seen again, they're invisible, completely absent from the story.
(I assume that it's our world because the religion is most definitely Christianity, complete with scripture quotes, and because there are a few Moors in the background.) The basic premise: The Deryni are a race of magic-using humans. A few hundred years back, they ruled the land (unpleasantly) until the normal humans, with the help of a few renegade Deryni, overthrew them.
Not light reading - very deep historical fantasy text - and brilliantly done by a woman who was a church historian for some 20 years. There are 14 books in the main cannon (so far - and a 15th on the way) - 6 in the "historical" time period and 8 in the "now" - that is, the series is about the world of the Deryni - consider: What if earth had 2 species develop side by side - one that had all those magical/esper abilities and one that didn't?
I'm glad that she dropped the rhymes after this book, but they do make the climactic battle between Kelson and his nemesis Clarissa a lot of fun. Overall, I think I will continue reading this book and series for years to come and it definitely qualifies as one of my favorite comfort reads.
Magic, politics, murder and deceit are all involved, and we are introduced to the main characters of Kelston, the 14 year old prince; Alaric Morgan, his Champion (in the true meaning of the word); and Duncan McLain, his Confessor. I can also see how Historical Fantasy has grown in cleverness after 40 years!!
But Judith Tarr is doing a read for tor.com, and since I own it I figured I'd join in. The male villain fancies himself a great swordsman, yet apparently he's never demonstrated it publicly.
And yet it was a great read for Halloween, and in spite of everything I could smell the rain and feel the warmth of the fire and the weight of the heavy cloak as the characters set out into the night to do what must be done.