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Near the end of the first century AD, one Celtic tribe fled their homeland in Gaul to escape Roman rule. Traveling by magical means, they were transported to another universe, where they founded their own kingdom, which they called Deverry.
The main narrative thread starts ten centuries later. Through the use of frequent and extended Flashbacks, the main story is intertwined with the stories of the character's previous incarnations, revealing how present circumstances stem from events occuring in a previous lifetime. This illustrates the concept of Wyrd, or karma. As the series progresses, the flashbacks become longer, with some of the later books being more than half flashback.
Originally intended by the author to be a short story, the work took on a life of its own, growing longer and longer. The series finally reached its conclusion with the publication of the fifteenth book in 2009. The author likens the series to a play, dividing it into four "acts," each containing three or four books.
The novels use a richly detailed system of magic, called dweomer, which is based upon real-world magical traditions, such as Kaballah, Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn Although dweomer is nominally a path to spiritual enlightenment, it produces quite spectacular displays, and can be powerful enough to steer the destiny of nations. Dweomer both an inherent gift as well as long study to use, and is a combination of Theurgy and Force Magic.
Note: Spoilers follow.
Act One: Deverry
- The Bristling Wood - published in the UK as Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood
- The Dragon Revenant - published in the UK as Dragonspell: The Southern Sea
Centuries earlier a young prince has found out that the Dweomer is his true calling in life. In his haste to begin learning magic, he makes mistakes and is disowned by his father, receiving the name No One (written as Nevyn for the reader's convenience). A bit later, this causes the tragic death of his former lover, her brother, as well as another nobleman. Having learned about reincarnation, he swears never to rest until he had put his errors right, and the Powers That Be accept his oath, granting him immortality.
Time and again, the principals in that ancient tragedy are reborn, and repeat the same destructive patterns - as seen in the many flashbacks. As the series begins, they are reborn once more, this time as Jill, daughter of the notorious mercenary Cullyn, and Rhodry, a young nobleman. The characters struggle to find their destiny in life, while the followers of the dark dweomer attempt to plunge the kingdom into war.
Act Two: The Westlands
- A Time of Exile
- A Time of Omens
- Days of Blood and Fire published in the UK as A Time of War
- Days of Air and Darkness published in the UK as A Time of Justice
Several decades later Nevyn is dead, Jill is a powerful dweomer master, and Rhodry has a problem; he isn't visibly aging. As a half-elf, he can expect to live for another century, but he has no right to the noble title he holds. Revealing this would mean a disastrous war, so instead Rhodry fakes his own death and rides off into the sunset, straight into another threat arising from his previous lives.
This time, the main threat comes from the Guardians. Evandar, leader of the Bright Court, has been manipulating the affairs of men, elves, and dwarves for millennia, in pursuit of his grand schemes. Unfortunately, his wife has plans of her own. Posing as a Goddess, she raises an army to conquer Deverry which, unknown to her, would also provide karmic retribution for the acts of the Deverrian's ancestors, when Evandar brought them out of Gaul.
Act Three: The Dragon Mage
- The Red Wyvern
- The Black Raven
- The Fire Dragon
The fake goddess who inspired them is dead, but the invading hordes remain. Now, the former priestess of the hordes must resettle into her old life, while her deeds in a past life begin to catch up with her. In the end, a despairing Rhodry agrees to be transformed into a dragon.
Act Four: The Silver Wyrm
- The Gold Falcon
- The Spirit Stone
- The Shadow Isle
- The Silver Mage
A few decades later, Jill and Nevyn have both reincarnated, and taken up the problems left from their previous lives, including Rhodry, whose transformation was never meant to be.
(NB: The Black Raven was originally intended to contain the material in The Fire Dragon as well; likewise The Silver Wyrm was split into The Spirit Stone and The Shadow Isle.)
- Anachronic Order - Flashbacks to previous incarnations and to the youth of long lived characters. Doubly so in that later there is one flashback to what used to be the "current" timeline. The chronologically earliest flashback is in the very last book.
- And That Would Be Wrong - Rori's suggestion to save Berwynna and Mic when they first meet.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy - Rhodry notices this about his blue lady, but is too entranced to care.
- Book Ends - "In the Hall of Light, there are no lies."
- Brother-Sister Incest - Twice, with major plot significance
- Catapult Nightmare - Rhodry at Dun Hiraedd, when Alastyr attacks him in his dreams. Berwynna right at the beginning of The Silver Mage.
- The Chains of Commanding - Glyn the First.
- Consistency - To a very high degree.
- The Constant - Brangwen's grave, Cannobaen to a certain degree, and the westernmost dun in Eldidd, which is in ruins in the "current" time. Averted with the royal broch in Dun Deverry.
- Continuity Lock Out - The author has written the books to be accessible for the first-time reader, but you need to read them a couple more times to understand how extensively each book is linked to the others. Sometimes many books in advance.
- Culture Clash - Between the Gel'da'thae and the alliance besieging Zakh Gral.
- Cursed with Awesome - Nevyn's endless life makes it possible for him to become a peerless master of magic, but after a few cycles of seeing others reincarnate, he begins to wonder whether he'll ever find the relief of death. Similarly, Rhodry's transformation into a dragon makes him practically invulnerable, but drives him mad.
- Dragon Rider - Rhodry, eventually, but no psychic bond.
- The Fair Folk - The Guardians, but not the Elves.
- Encyclopedia Exposita - Quotes from genuine 9th century Welsh poetry and the fictional The Secret Book of Cadwallon the Druid
- Expy - Only for the 835-843 timeline, but: Nevyn is Merlin, Maryn is King Arthur, Maddyn is Lancelot, Merodda is Morgan le Fay and many others. The whole plot arc plays out as a retelling of the King Arthur legend.
- Fictional Document - The Secret Book of Cadwallon the Druid
- Five Races - There are five intelligent species, the others associated with one of the four classical Elemental Powers in the series' magic system: Elves to air, Dwarves to earth, Gel da Thae to fire, and Dwrgi to water. Since Humans Are Special, they get Element Number Five, aethyr.
- Flash Back - Major parts of most books deal with the past, going beyond any normal use. The characters' current lives often echo their previous ones, though usually with significant differences.
- Foreshadowing - A lot, with probably the most significant one being "Rhodry's Wyrd is Eldidd's Wyrd".
- Forever War - Nevyn notes that the civil wars are turning into this.
- Half-Human Hybrid - Most often half-elves, but there are hybrids of all the non-human races.
- Heartbroken Badass - Rhodry, Laz Moj
- Heel Face Turn - Laz Moj manages this after he has a Heel Realization of evil done in previous lives as Alastyr and Tren.
- Immortal Procreation Clause - The Elves. Played straight, though it does come up in a discussion between Dallandra and Calonderiel.
- Important Haircut - Jill, after leaving her home village with her father; Lilli (twice), first when running away from her mother, and later when mourning for Branoic.
- Karma - Bad actions will have consequences in your next life, if not earlier. The elven priests also tried to invoke it to justify their excesses.
- Lie to the Beholder - The illusion Evandar placed on Dalla. Worked on all humans but not elves.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis - The narrator of the books is an 18th century Deverrian woman, though this is only made explicit at the end of the final book.
- Loads and Loads of Characters - There are four major time periods and seven minor ones, and over twenty characters who reincarnate in more than one of them. And then there are those characters who are only in one time period.
- Loss of Identity - Rhodry in The Dragon Revenant, Laz Moj for a short while in the beginning of The Silver Mage.
- Magnum Opus
- Market-Based Title
- Mayfly-December Romance - Aderyn and Dallandra, with the former being bitterly aware of it.
- Meaningful Name - Nevyn and Yraen, though you need to check the spelling guide.
- Must Make Amends - Nevyn spends several hundred years trying to get the chance to teach magic to various incarnations of his lover Brangwen after he had caused her death.
"Brangwen, my love, forgive me! If we ever meet again, I swear I'll put this right. I swear to you—I'll never rest until I set this right."
- No Man of Woman Born - The most obvious one is that Lord Corbyn "can never be slain in battle except by sword, but he'll never be slain by any man's hand."
- He is, of course, eventually stabbed to death by a female swordsman. Subverted in that after the fact its revealed that the male co-protagonist could have done the job equally as well if he'd only known -- as he's only half human, his father having been an elf.
- Obfuscating Stupidity - Salamander, who prattles endlessly and travels as a common gerthddyn (roaming bard) to conceal the fact that he's a sorceror.
Jill: Do you have to babble on about everything?
- Poor Communication Kills - The series would be a lot shorter and quite different if the Dweomer-masters of different races had better contacts between each other. This is mostly justified, though, in that this is only obvious to a (modern) reader who starts thinking about it.
- Prophecies Are Always Right - Often vague, but they do come true. In some way.
- Reincarnation - Central to both the themes and plots.
- Reincarnation Romance - The main point of the first four books is to snap Jill and Rhodry out of theirs.
- Retcon - Daggerspell and Darkspell were later released in a revised edition. Changes to the former are minimal, but there are considerable changes to the latter, especially the character of Sarcyn, who was rewritten to be more in line with how Kerr originally envisioned him.
- Sacred Hospitality - Not as strong as in some other places, but a definite element of the Deverrian culture.
- Spurned Into Suicide - The eventual result of Galrion leaving Brangwen.
- Succession Crisis - The cause of both Deverrian civil wars.
- Take a Third Option - Towards the end of The Dragon Revenant, Nevyn comments that he didn't see this possibility when he was young.
- Unexpected Successor - Pertyc Maelwadd, with a bit of Offered the Crown mixed in.
- Also a bit of My Rule Fu Is Stronger Than Yours. The King does not have the authority to arbitrarily appoint Pertyc as the new Gwerbret Aberyn even despite the old one and his entire line having been attainted for treason and rebellion, as by ancient law the selection of a new gwerbret in the absence of an heir is a matter for the Council of Electors, or, the assembled vote of every lord in the gwerbret's demesne. King Aeryc then points out that due to the fact that due to equally ancient law that any lord who raises their banner in rebellion forfeits his vote on the Council, and the fact that Pertyc is the one lord in the entire province who did not rebel against the Crown, the Council of Electors for southern Eldidd now consists of exactly two people: Lord Pertyc and King Aeryc. So if Aeryc nominates him for the gwerbret's seat and Pertyc seconds the motion, he gets it free and clear.
- Wham! Episode - The end of The Fire Dragon, which is also the source of most of the spoiler tags on this page.
- The Wise Prince - Rhodry, Glyn the First. Rhodry enjoys most of his reign, actually, but we only see him at the beginning and the end when he's not so happy with the job.
- Wretched Hive - Slaith is a Not-So-Safe Harbor (type 1) and the Bilge is The City Narrows for Cerrmor.
Tropes related to Magic:
- Astral Projection - Quite well detailed. The written form is consistent enough to almost qualify as Stock Footage.
- Aura Vision - Viewing auras is the basic skill, with manipulating them being the advanced form.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience - The auras on the Ethereal plane.
- Dream Weaver - Dalla, possibly others.
- Hermetic Magic - The magic system is quite detailed, being based on the Kabbalistic system and then expanded with other sources.
- I Know Your True Name - Dragons, and the Guardians to a lesser degree.
- Magic A Is Magic A - Consistent to the degree that there's noticable repetition in different books when the characters build Bodies of Light or create Seals. The limitations of magic are also clearly shown, affect the story and are commented upon by the dweomerworkers.
- Mind Manipulation - A important part of the Dweomer power set. Often done through the victim's aura.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good - Nevyn on Rhodry, Dallandra on Verrarc; in both cases to protect someone.
- Charm Person - Often described as "spinning" the target's aura.
- Deprogram - Rhodry is lucky and gets his memories back. Camdel, not so much...
- Fake Memories - Aderyn to Corbyn's messengers.
- Fighting From the Inside - Jahdo against Verrarc's suggestion.
- Hypnotic Eyes - Since eyes are the Windows of the Soul, eye-contact is usually necessary, at least to initiate the manipulation.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia - Nevyn makes Rhodry forget that Bocc is a thief; many other uses as well.
- Mind Rape - Alastyr and Sarcyn against Camdel, Baruma against Rhodry. Physical pain, humiliation and physical rape are used in conjuction with magic.
- Perception Filter - Pulling one's own aura close.
- Telepathy - Mind-to-mind speech, often through fire but sometimes water or some other element.
- Think in Text - Mainly the widest-known italic convention is used to show the above. It has other uses in the series, but this is the most obvious.
- Tongue-Tied - Jahdo in Days of Blood and Fire thanks to Verrarc's clever use of ensorcellment.
- Mundane Utility - The elemental spirits of fire are used a lot to light candles and fires.
- Psychic Link - Weak, but Jill/Branna and Nevyn/Neb have one, and Perryn could tell what direction Jill was in.
- Shapeshifting - Much more natural to elven dweomermasters, but at least humans can learn it as well. The "Water" race, Dwergi, also have some form of shapeshifting.
- Animorphism - Mortal practitioners have the ability to transform into a single animal, which is a reflection of their inner nature.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body - Jill (Hawk) once almost attacks Dallandra (Linnet.. sorta) when both are shifted.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock - In The Silver Mage
- Shapeshifter Baggage - Averted; most shifters either return to where they shifted, or have a bag to carry clothes in.
- Shapeshifter Default Form - The Guardians consider the humanoid form to be their "natural" one.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting - In fact, learning even the one form requires years of training for mortals.
- Summon to Hand - The silver daggers that are a badge of a dishonoured warrior are enchanted to make them return to the "true owner" which just happens to be the rather tight-fisted dwarf that made them. This can be slow, though, with the one shown example taking decades.
- Talking in Your Dreams - Used a lot; Dallandra is the most prominent but the Guardians, Nevyn, Nananna and Niffa are also proficient. Considering that Rhodry doesn't have any training in magic, he manages pretty well in this too.
- Vision Quest - Aderyn at the end of his training.
- Weather Control Machine - Nevyn, Dallandra and Jill, the first two causing Weather Dissonance when a Personal Raincloud appears over only one of the armies present.
- Your Mind Makes It Real - The Ethereal and other planes.