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Fantasy by Katherine Kurtz

"It's not the Church we fight, though it may seem that way at first glance. It's an idea, Kelson. The idea that different is evil. That because some men are born with extraordinary powers and talents, those men are evil, no matter to what purpose they put those powers."

— Monsignor Duncan McLain in Deryni Checkmate

Katherine Kurtz is a fantasy author who specializes heavily in what might be called "occult" fantasy. Magic plays huge roles in all her books, and usually a very specific brand of magic: immensely powerful, extremely dangerous to the wielder, with heavy religious overtones. Her characters are generally interesting and well-rounded, and she loves playing with moral questions and dilemmas.

The Saga of the Deryni

Kurtz's main claim to fame is the Deryni series: 15 novels plus a couple of short story anthologies all set in the fictional land of the Eleven Kingdoms. The Deryni are a race of magic-users, physically (and mentally, and morally) human, but with access to magic powers that "normal" humans don't have. As a result, and given the endless human capacity for fear of the Other, the Deryni occupy a role in the Eleven Kingdoms that is something like that of Jews in real medieval Europe: sometimes respected, usually tolerated, sometimes brutally repressed. The main action of the saga takes place in two periods about a hundred years apart. I've listed the novels by the internal chronological order, not the order of publication.

I really enjoy reading and re-reading these books -- they're very well written, especially the Kelson books. Sadly, in my opinion the latest trilogy, the "Childe Morgan" books, simply don't measure up to the earlier ones. That's why I don't have them.

  • CAMBER OF CULDI
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1976
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-24590-3
    Earl Camber of Culdi is a Deryni lord of great power and influence. Semi-retired from his former role as king's counsellor, Camber is nonetheless drawn back into the political fray when a power-hungry lord contrives the murder of Camber's son Cathan. Revolt against the king seems like a forlorn hope ... except that Camber's children have discovered a lost heir to the throne, a descendant of the Haldane line that ruled Gwynedd before Imre's great-grandfather invaded and overthrew them.
  • SAINT CAMBER
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-30862-X
    Cinhil Haldane has taken his crown back from Imre of Festil, but it's hardly secure. Imre's sister Ariella escaped to Torenth, and has raised an army there to invade and overthrow the Haldane "usurper." Cinhil is still new to the crown, so Camber and his friends must manipulate him into leading the resistance against Ariella's army. While Ariella's invasion is defeated, the cost is higher than anyone expected ... and building tensions between Cinhil and his Deryni supporters threaten everything Camber accomplished. "Middle volume syndrome" is on full display in this book, but it's made an excellent read by the phenomenal detail that Kurtz puts into the details of Deryni magic.
  • CAMBER THE HERETIC
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1981
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-27784-8
    In the waning days of King Cinhil's reign, Camber and his allies maneuver with increasing desperation to avoid a savage repression of the Deryni in Gwynedd.
  • HARROWING OF GWYNEDD, THE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-36314-0
    King Cinhil is dead, and his young son Alroy is completely under control of evil regents who hate the Deryni. Now the regents have launched a bloody purge of Gwynedd, killing Deryni wholesale and reducing the rest to landless poverty. While things get worse and worse for the Deryni, Evaine MacRorie seeks a way to bring her father Camber back from his living-death stasis. This novel contains some excellent description of Deryni magic rituals, and some valuable worldbuilding and backstory. On the other hand, it's extremely bleak, and the heroes can do little to change that. About all they can do is lay plans for future use in hopes that someday they can make things better.
  • KING JAVAN'S YEAR
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-38478-4
    After Alroy Haldane dies, his brother Javan takes the throne and finds himself pitted against the same nobles who made his brother a puppet. While the Deryni resistance continues its moves behind the scenes, Javan attempts to reduce the nobles' power base. Unfortunately, he has to move too fast, and...
  • BASTARD PRINCE, THE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-39177-2
    Rhys Michael Haldane, boy-king of Gwynedd, is in a lot of trouble. His kingdom faces an invasion from Torenth, and his own councilors are doing their best to keep him a figurehead with no real power. They'll stop at nothing to control him, so he can't let anything get between him and his freedom. Fortunately he has allies: a few Deryni under deep cover, who want him to become king in fact as well as in name and reverse the persecutions of Deryni in Gwynedd. Rhys has one other advantage, too: death isn't going to stop him.
  • DERYNI RISING
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1970
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-30426-8
    After his father's murder, young Kelson Haldane of Gwynedd finds himself in the middle of several crises at once, as he tries to take up his father's magic powers and protect his kingdom from the Deryni sorceress Charissa. An excellent introduction to the world of the Deryni, this first-to-be-written Deryni novel has all the elements that make the series so good: magic, believable politics, well-drawn characters, and the quasi-religious rituals that characterize higher Deryni magic.
  • DERYNI CHECKMATE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1971
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-31791-2
    The dark sorceress Charissa is dead, but Kelson's throne is far from secure. On the eastern border of Gwynedd, the rival king Wencit of Torenth moves toward war. At the same time, anti-Deryni forces within Gwynedd threaten to begin a rebellion that could end both Kelson's nascent reign and his life. This book suffers heavily from "middle volume syndrome, but it still manages to be a more than worthwhile read anyway.
  • HIGH DERYNI
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1973
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-30278-8
    The first two novels in this trilogy set up several conflicts; not it's time to resolve them. Kelson's first priority is to defeat the internal rebellion led by Archbishop Edmund Loris and the strange self-appointed messiah Warin de Grey. When that is accomplished, he has to turn his attention to the threat of Wencit of Torenth. Wencit himself has no intention of letting Kelson work unhindered; he's turned one of Kelson's young earls to his side and plans to use that to betray and defeat Kelson's armies in detail. The story also brings Kelson into contact with the Camberian Council, a group of high Deryni lords who use their powers to influence others of their race and try to avoid conflicts between human and Deryni.
  • BISHOP'S HEIR, THE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-30097-1
    It's been two peaceful years since Kelson Haldane defeated Wencit of Torenth. Now he faces a threat from the other side of his realm, as the province of Meara seeks to break away from Gwynedd and regain its independence. To make matters worse, the Mearan separatists ally themselves with Kelson's old enemy Archbishop Edmund Loris, who hates Deryni in general and Kelson in particular with religious fervor. While Kelson seeks to defuse the building crisis, Loris and the Mearans seek to force an open war.
  • KING'S JUSTICE, THE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-33196-6
    THE BISHOP'S HEIR and this book are really one mega-novel that's broken into two parts. Kelson's attempt at a peaceful solution to the Meara crisis failed completely, so his only remaining option is war against the rebel Princess Caitrin and traitor Archbishop Edmund Loris. Two Gwyneddi armies - one led by Kelson, the other by Duncan McLain - began an invasion of Meara, seeking a conclusive battle against the Mearan army. What they don't know is that the mearans are planning to trap Duncan's army and capture him ... and the virulently anti-Deryni Loris does not plan to give Duncan a quick or easy death.
  • QUEST FOR SAINT CAMBER, THE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-30099-8
    A year after the end of the Mearan war, Kelson faces his knighting ceremony. To go with it, Kelson plans a knightly quest for evidence and relics of Saint Camber, the Deryni saint of two hundred years before. Unfortunately, his cousin Conall has some ideas of his own about Kelson and his intended bride. Things get out of hand, and before long Kelson is "missing presumed dead" along with his blood-brother Dhugal, and Conall is heir to the throne!
  • KING KELSON'S BRIDE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00827-5
    A stand-alone novel set a couple of years after the end of THE QUEST FOR SAINT CAMBER. Kelson Haldane needs a bride, so he can have children and secure the royal succession. But he wants his wife to be more than just a royal broodmare. While and his counsellors look for a suitable bride, things are approaching a crisis in Torenth, where Prince Liam-Lajos is about to turn sixteen and take his throne and his full power. Torenthi traitors threaten Liam's crown and his life, and Kelson is determined to save the young king who could help him bring an end to centuries of war between the two kingdoms. This novel is less action and more political intrigues than the earlier Kelson books, but Kurtz still manages to make everything interesting -- especially the Torenthi scenes, into which she weaves a magic tradition that's completely unlike anything we've seen so far in the Deryni universe.
  • DERYNI ARCHIVES, THE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-32678-4
    A collection of short stories set in the Deryni universe: some in Camber's time, the rest in Morgan and Kelson's time. Also includes the short story that was the prototype of DERYNI RISING.
  • DERYNI MAGIC: A GRIMOIRE
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Del Rey
    ISBN: 0-345-36117-2
    A grimoire about Deryni powers and how they work, using examples drawn from all the Deryni novels and stories published up to 1990.

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The Adept

Sir Adam Sinclair is a psychiatrist, a Scottish baronet ... and an "Adept," a master of magic entrusted with defending humanity from evil mages. Together with Deborah Turner Harris, Kurtz wrote five books starring Sinclair and his fellow "Hunters," white-magic users who hunt down and defeat dark-magical threats.

I really enjoy these stories, but be forewarned that they aren't exactly high literature. The characters tend to be flat and the plots fairly predictable. What draws me to them is the mystery and magic aspects. Katherine Kurtz knows a lot about magic traditions from all over the world, and weaves that knowledge into the Adept books in very skilled ways.

  • THE ADEPT
    Author: Katherine Kurtz & Deborah Harris
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00343-5
    Sir Adam Sinclair is a psychiatrist and a Scottish baronet. In secret he's also the master of the Hunt, a white-magic wizard (or "Adept") who protects Scotland against dark wizards. The first part of this book tells how Sinclair meets and recruits an artist named Peregrine Lovat, whose talents include a form of psychic Sight that he can't control and is driving him mad. The second part begins Peregrine's education into the Hunting Lodge, as he joins Adam and other Huntsmen in figuring out and then stopping a plot by a dark-magic lodge to steal the hidden treasure of the ancient Scottish mage Michael Scot.
  • THE ADEPT #2: THE LODGE OF THE LYNX
    Author: Katherine Kurtz & Deborah Harris
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00344-3
    The Hunting Lodge defeated the Lodge of the Lynx, but the Lynx doesn't stay down for long. Led by an aged Master with access to exceptionally dark magic, the Lynx is planning something very big. Adam Sinclair isn't sure just what that is, but he knows he has to stop it. Meanwhile, the Lodge of the Lynx isn't sitting still -- they intend to kill Adam's Huntsmen before he can find and stop them. The Lynx seem to be holding all the best cards, but the Light has a way of playing with the deck...
  • THE ADEPT #3: THE TEMPLAR TREASURE
    Author: Kurtz and Harris
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00345-1
    Eight hundred years ago, the Templar Order was brutally suppressed by Philippe le Bel, and its treasures were ordered seized. But the Templars had expected the king's actions, and hid their treasure away. In the modern world, a half-mad French scholar named Gerard believes he's found the key to the Templar treasure. Caught in the act of stealing a vital artifact called the Seal of Solomon, Gerard murders the Seal's owner, then uses the Seal as a tool in his search for the Templar treasure. But the treasure isn't what he thinks it is. Adam Sinclair and his Huntsmen Peregrine Lovat and Noel McLeod are forced into a complicated investigation. First they have to figure out what the Templar treasure actually is. Then they have to find it. And then they have to stop Gerard from getting it, and unleashing a terror like nothing the world has seen since the days of King Solomon, three thousand years ago. Along the way they touch on some obscure bits of Scottish history, and at least one of the best-known ghost stories in Scotland. This is really a well-done "occult mystery" novel, with several strands of real history woven into the fiction with great skill.
  • THE ADEPT #4: DAGGER MAGIC
    Author: Kurtz and Harris
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00304-4
    After the 'one-off' advanture of THE TEMPLAR TREASURE, we come back to the ongoing conflict between Sinclair's Huntsmen and the Lodge of the Lynx. While on his honeymoon, Peregrine Lovat stumbles across a dead body: a man who was murdered by an unknown weapon somewhere on the Irish coast, then drifted across the Irish Channel to the west coast of Scotland. Peregrine's psychic Sight tells him there's more going on here than meets the eye, so he calls in Adam Sinclair and Noel McLeod. The trail that they find leads to a lost U-boat from World War II, a cache of black magic scrolls hidden aboard, and a mission to recover those scrolls led by the Hunt's old enemy Francis Raeburn. The basic plot sounds almost too absurd to believe, but somehow Kurtz and Harris make it work.
  • THE ADEPT #5: DEATH OF AN ADEPT
    Author: Katherine Kurtz & Deborah Harris
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: Ace Books
    ISBN: 0-441-00484-9
    Lynx-Master Francis Raeburn is still determined to solve the riddle that the dying Head-Master left behind at the end of THE LODGE OF THE LYNX, and himself tap into the power that the Head-Master was trying to summon. The only way he can find to do it involves a historical dark adept named William de Soulis. For his crimes Soulis was banished to limbo, blocked from ever again reincarnating on Earth. Raeburn offers him freedom in return for the key to the power he seeks. Soulis has one additional demand, though: a new body to inhabit right away - a white-magic Adept's body, used to handling magic. The body of Adam Sinclair. Sinclair's fellow Huntsmen must do the impossible: act effectively without Adam's leadership, find their missing Huntmaster, and stop Raeburn's plan before Soulis is freed. As with the other Adept stories, Kurtz and Harris draw heavily on real Scottish folklore for story material -- William de Soulis and Robin Redcap are real figures from Scottish folklore, and they were very evil indeed.

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Miscellaneous novels

A grab-bag of other novels that Kurtz has written, some with co-authors, some without. They tend to resemble the Adept novels, though somewhat less predictable, and to draw heavily on real-world events as inspiration.

  • LAMMAS NIGHT
    Author: Kurtz, Katherine
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-29516-1
    A stand-alone novel set during World War II, primarily in the months after Dunkirk. John Graham is an important member of the British secret service. He's also a white wizard of the Old Religion who seeks to protect England from occult threats as well as mundane ones. The strain of trying to find a way to defeat the impending Nazi invasion drives Graham to explore his own past lives. He seeks a way to summon a Grand Coven of white wizards and raise a psychic shield that Hitler can't penetrate. He finds it ... and much, much more. With the same skill that marks the better Deryni stories, Kurtz interweaves real English history with her fictional magickal history, to such a point that it's difficult to tell where one stops and the other starts.
  • TEMPLE AND THE STONE, THE
    Author: Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Harris
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-60723-1

  • TEMPLE AND THE CROWN, THE
    Author: Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Harris
    Copyright:2001
    Publisher: Warner Books
    ISBN: 0-446-60854-8

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