Katherine Kurtz, editor,
Deryni Tales
(Ace, 2002)

In the kingdom of Gwynedd, ordinary humans live side by side with the Deryni, a slightly more-than-human folk endowed with magical powers. The relationship between humans and Deryni has not often been congenial -- humans for the most part fear the Deryni, and for a long time, being Deryni was a death sentence.

The stories collected in this new anthology span the recorded history of the Deryni, as written by their chronicler, Katherine Kurtz. However, with one exception, these stories were all written by fans of the Deryni series, rather than Kurtz herself. The selected stories originally appeared in Kurtz's magazine, Deryni Tales, and Kurtz, in her introduction, says that these stories are "exceedingly faithful to the Deryni canon" and that the authors have told the stories as well as she might have done.

Among the standout stories here is "Arilan the Talmud Student." This story, by Daniel Kohanski and Jay Barry Azneer, explains Denis Arilan's familiarity with the Talmud in The Bishop's Heir. This intriguing story tells how Arilan, as a young seminarian, became interested in the Talmud, how he struggled to learn Hebrew and Aramaic, and how he found a teacher at last to help him.

In "Dhugal at Court" by Melissa Houle, we learn how Dhugal MacArdry (later to become King Kelson's best friend) came to serve as a page in King Brion's court and how he met young Kelson. This fun little tale tells of the difficulties and loneliness involved in leaving home at a young age and being forced to deal with a bully on a daily basis.

Perhaps the most memorable of the stories in this collection is "Lover to Shadows" by Lohr E. Miller. This poignant story tells of the love between Charissa de Tolan and Christian-Richard de Falkenberg, and the events after Charissa's defeat and death at King Kelson's coronation. The story is all the more memorable for being told from the point of view of the enemy, making Kelson and his friends and allies the bad guys.

Kurtz's own contribution to this collection is "The Green Tower." She admits in her notes that this story will be frustrating for readers as it involves an incident that will be important to an upcoming novel. Told from a child's point of view, it actually reveals nothing of the incident in question, but establishes the friendships of Jessamy, daughter of Lewis ap Norfal and Stevana de Corwyn, Alaric Morgan's grandmother.

As with all collections of this sort, it is interesting to see which incidents in the established history of a fictional world will pique the interest of other writers so much that they simply must tell that particular story. These tales also provide fascinating glimpses into Deryni history.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 1 February 2003

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