US Cover for revised version of the first book, Daggerspell
|Publisher||Bantam Books (USA)
Voyager Books (UK, Australia)
|Media type||print (hardcover and paperback)
The series is written in a non-linear style: the principal narrative is frequently interrupted by flashbacks to events that occurred decades, or even centuries, before. These flashbacks concern the prior incarnations of characters in the principal narrative, and provide insight into the relationships of the characters in their current incarnations.
Kerr began working on what would become the Deverry cycle in 1982, expecting to produce a short story. The project grew much larger than that, eventually expanding into a series of fifteen novels. Kerr has likened the Deverry cycle to a play, dividing the story into four acts:
- Act one: Deverry
- Daggerspell (1986) — "Author's definitive edition" issued in 1993
- Darkspell (1987) — "Author's definitive edition" issued in 1994
- The Bristling Wood (1989) — US title; issued in the UK as Dawnspell: The Bristling Wood
- The Dragon Revenant (1990) — US title; issued in the UK as Dragonspell: The Southern Sea
- Act two: The Westlands
- A Time of Exile (1991)
- A Time of Omens (1992)
- Days of Blood and Fire (1993) — US title; issued in the UK as A Time of War
- Days of Air and Darkness (1994) — US title; issued in the UK as A Time of Justice
- Act three: The Dragon Mage
- Act four: The Silver Wyrm
Cultures and peoples
Though much of the story takes place within the kingdom of Deverry, there are several other cultures which also occupy the world of Annwn.
- Also known as Elcyion Lacar ("Bright Spirits"), and as elves, the Westfolk are a tribe of nomadic horse herders that live on the grasslands west of Deverry. They are a refugee population, originally from a set of seven cities farther west; the cities were destroyed about a thousand years before the present-time period of the novels by marauding Horsekin. Their term for themselves is Impar, the People. Elves are humanoid, with an affinity for the element of Air and a certain degree of natural psychic talent (all elves can see the Wildfolk). Elves can be recognized by their pointed and furled ears, and by their eyes, which have catlike irises. They also have an extended lifespan, with five hundred years being the norm, heal faster than humans, and only begin aging shortly prior to their death. They have a low birth rate (consistent with their extended lifespan). This last is an ongoing problem for the Westfolk, for whom the stresses of a nomadic existence mean a death rate due to accident, illness, and old age that outpaces their replacement birthrate. Elves are cross-fertile with humans and offspring are fertile with both humans and elves. Half-elves tend to look more human than elven, though they may have some muted elven traits, such as slightly sharp ears or strange eyes. Inheritance of other standard elven traits by half-elves (the ability to see the Wildfolk, sharpened eyesight, the ability to see in the dark, better than normal health and healing speed) is random, with different half-elves inheriting a different mix of traits. Inheritance of the elven lifespan by half-elves is also unpredictable. Half-elves typically have a much longer lifespan than humans (on the order of centuries) but generally a shorter lifespan than full elves; rate of apparent aging varies, with some half-elves showing gray hair within their first century and others showing no sign of age after nearly two. The Westfolk are in fact one of three elven populations that are shown during the course of the series.
- Though Deverrians refer to this southern archipelago as if it were a single country, it is in fact a collection of independent city states. Bardekians, who have much darker skin than Deverrians, consider the Deverrians barbarians. Many Bardekian city-states have a semi-democratic system of government, much like Classical Athens. Their medical skills are valued highly. There are oblique suggestions in the novels that Bardek, like Deverry, was settled by people from our world, and Kerr has flatly stated online that they are descended from Hellenized Moors.
- Mountain Folk
- Living in the mountains north of Deverry, the Mountain Folk, or dwarves, are short but stocky. Like the elves, they have a significantly longer lifespan than humans and are cross-fertile with them (although Kerr has indicated that elves and dwarves are not directly cross-fertile with each other); they likewise share the elven ability to see in the dark. Their elemental affinity is Earth and they have a predilection for metals, metalworking and other crafts. There are two different dwarven populations, both of which live in cities that are partially or primarily underground, and which make use of artificial and natural caves and tunnels. In the larger of these two populations (Dwarveholt, centered around the city of Lin Serr), dwarven women remain underground for the entirety of their existence. Dwarven culture emphasizes thrift ("Thrifty as a dwarf" is a common saying in Deverry) and takes debt and obligations of all types very seriously. They distrust the Elcyion Lacar, considering them to be thieves. Connected with the dwarves is a remote and sparsely populated city, Haen Marn, which travels through space and possibly time. To enter, one must first find it, then use a boat to travel through its river's strong current, then ask for entry. The water contains mysterious monsters.
- The Guardians are spirits who dwell in one of the higher planes. Though they were meant to incarnate like all other souls, they somehow “stayed behind.” Most have no sense of individuality. Some Guardians have great magical prowess, most notably Evandar who is responsible for bringing the original human settlers of Deverry from our world to Annwn. The Guardians are known as the Færie in “our” world, with their two main divisions known as the Seelie (led by Evandar) and Unseelie (led by his “brother”) Hosts.
- The Rhiddaer
- To the north and west of Deverry is the Rhiddaer, or Freeland, which is occupied by the descendants of escaped bondsfolk (serfs). Riddaer folk, who speak an archaic-sounding dialect of the Deverrian language, refer to the people of Deverry as “The Slavers.” They have a democratic system of government, headed by an elected Chief Speaker.
- A large and hairy humanoid species which possesses a strong psychic talent which manifests as animal empathy. They are responsible for the destruction of the former elven civilization having been pushed out of their own homelands by the humans when they arrived in Annwn. They are referred to by the elves as 'meradan' (demons) and also as Hordes. Because one of their cultural practices is to eat the flesh of their own dead, the Horsekin were struck with a cholera-like plague which almost completely destroyed their population. The survivors abandoned the elven cities and constructed new settlements nearby. The term “Gel da’Thae” refers to civilized Horsekin that live in these settlements, while the term “Horsekin” in its stricter sense refers to the uncivilized tribes that dwell on the high plains north of the Rhiddaer, who have a culture extremely different from those living by the elven ruins, and who are considered barbarians by the city-dwelling Gel da’Thae. The more savage Horsekin hate the Elcyion Lacar and Guardians, while the civilized Gel da’Thae revere some of the Guardians as gods and consider the Elcyion Lacar the “children of the gods.” In later books the term “children of the gods.” is replaced by the term “Ancients.”
- Introduced in the penultimate volume after some brief foreshadowing in the previous work is another species that provides an elemental affinity to Water. Dwrgi appear to be shape-changers, able to shift from human (or near-human: their features as described hint at their alternate form, since their hair is particularly short and thick and their brows low) to otter-like form. There are at least two tribes or communities of them, loosely allied. In “our” world, they, or creatures very similar to them (seals instead of otters), appear in legends as the Selkies.
The Deverry Saga
The first four books deal with how Nevyn finally fulfils his oath to “set things right,” and also with a complex plot by dark dweomermen to plunge the province of Eldidd into war.
- Daggerspell — A rebellion in the province of Eldidd instigated by the mad half-elven sorcerer Loddlaen, himself influenced by a dark dweomerman. The immortal wizard Nevyn searches for Jill in order to fulfil an ancient oath. Jill becomes the mistress of Lord Rhodry Maelwaedd.
- Darkspell — Rhodry is sent into exile by his brother Rhys, the Gwerbret of Aberwyn, and becomes a mercenary soldier called a “silver dagger.” Jill goes with him; they become involved in a dark dweomerman’s plot to steal the Great Stone of the West, a magical gemstone which guides the conscience of Deverry’s king.
- The Bristling Wood (UK: Dawnspell) — Jill is kidnapped by a very peculiar lord, and Rhodry searches for her, but is captured by pirates and sold as slave in the island country of Bardek. When Gwerbret Rhys is mortally wounded, the king overrides Rhodry’s sentence of exile.
- The Dragon Revenant (UK: Dragonspell) — With Rhodry now a mindwiped slave in Bardek, Jill, along with Rhodry’s half-brother Ebañy aka “Salamander,�” travel to Bardek to rescue him, where they are later joined by Nevyn. Salamander begins teaching Jill dweomer, and she becomes Nevyn’s apprentice when she returns to Deverry. Rhodry becomes the Gwerbret of Aberwyn, partially fulfilling a prophetic omen.
The Westlands Saga
The fifth through eighth books are concerned with Rhodry’s self-imposed exile and subsequent quest to find a dragon, and a Horsekin invasion of Deverry.
- A Time of Exile — Rhodry fakes his own death, and leaves Deverry behind to live among his Westfolk kin. Meanwhile, Jill, now a powerful dweomermaster, tries to decipher the riddle of Rhodry’s rose ring. A past-life sequence shows how Nevyn’s first apprentice, Aderyn, came to live among the Westfolk as one of their Wise Ones (dweomermasters), and how his lifespan was extended.
- A Time of Omens — Jill travels to islands south of Bardek to learn of a lost tribe of Elcyon Lacar living there. Rhodry returns to Deverry as a mercenary, takes an apprentice of sorts, and helps a noble-born girl find her Elven lover who is the last descendant of Elven royalty.
- Days of Blood and Fire (UK: A Time of War) — Jahdo, a young boy from the Rhiddaer, aids a Gel da’Thae bard in searching for his brother. Jill sends Rhodry deep into the northern mountains to find the dragon whose name is inscribed on his rose ring. Along the way he encounters Haen Marn, with lasting consequences.
- Days of Air and Darkness, (UK: A Time of Justice) — a Horsekin army besieges the city of Cengarn, driven by a mad Guardian posing as a goddess. The dragon, Arzosah, proves vital to turning the tide of battle, albeit by unexpected means.
The Dragon Mage Saga
The ninth through eleventh books feature the Time of Troubles in the past and the Rhiddaer in the present, with consequences for an entire race.
- The Red Wyvern — the only book in the cycle that is predominantly a single past-life sequence, chronicles the end of the Time of Troubles with the rise of Prince Maryn, the true king.
- The Black Raven — A noblewoman of the false king’s clan with dweomer talent has cursed Prince Maryn. Her daughter rebels and becomes Nevyn’s apprentice. In the present, the daughter has been reincarnated as Jahdo’s older sister, while the noblewoman herself is reincarnated as the dweomer-talented priestess of the false goddess.
- The Fire Dragon — In the past-life sequence, the tale of Maryn is concluded. In the present, Jahdo is returned to his home in the Rhiddaer, with dramatic consequences for several major characters.
The Silver Wyrm Saga
The twelfth through fifteenth books complete the Deverry cycle, featuring the transformed Rhodry (now known as Rori).
- The Gold Falcon — 40+ years after The Fire Dragon, Nevyn and Jill are reincarnated as young lovers. The Horsekin, motivated by a cult based on the now-deceased mad Guardian pseudo-goddess, have built a fortress in preparation for conquering the Westlands and Deverry.
- The Spirit Stone — A mysterious black stone plays a major role in events involving (among other things) a group of outcast Horsekin and half-breeds who are persecuted by the pseudo-goddess worshipers because of their dweomer talents. A past-life sequence connects with just prior to the present-time events of Daggerspell, completing the “Celtic knot” structure of the cycle, and features the early childhood of Salamander.
- The Shadow Isle — The return of Haen Marn catalyzes major events, including the presence of a young man from Earth. Introduces the Dwrgi.
- The Silver Mage — The conclusion of the Deverry saga.
Rock culture references
- The song Jillian, from Within Temptation's album The Silent Force, is about the relationship between Nevyn and Jill.