Second in a trilogy (following Deryni Rising, not reviewed) and continuation of a longstanding fantasy series set in the medieval, Celtic-flavored kingdom of Gwynedd.
Gwynedd’s Haldane kings possess powerful magic, as do the Deryni, a human-seeming race whose magic arises from psychic abilities. The tolerant, visionary Haldanes secretly support and protect the Deryni, who are widely feared and reviled, largely because of the church’s implacable hatred of both magic and Deryni. Even King Donal, fearing excommunication, dares not openly oppose the bishops. Again, Donal’s kingdom seems threatened by neighboring Torenth. Donal is beginning to age, and his heir, Brion, is but 14. But then, encouraging news arrives from Torenth. Through meddling with forbidden magic, the heir, Prince Nimur, lies dead, and his younger brother, Torval, has been driven mad. Elsewhere, however, the mage Zachris Pomeroy is plotting on behalf of his sponsor, Prince Hogan, the Festillic Pretender to Donal’s throne. Donal, alarmed at the untimely death of his youngest son, Jathan, decides to prepare the way for Brion. Haldane magic must be activated by somebody with Deryni powers—but Alaric, who was destined to fulfill this role, is only four years old; nevertheless, Donal installs the necessary triggers, and also readies the boy’s Deryni mother, Alyce, now far along in pregnancy, as a precaution.
Kurtz’s appeal lies in her patient accumulation of precise, significant detail, but here matters proceed a little too patiently, and could have used more sparks and less swaddling.