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Raymond's Reviews #113

%T Deryni Magic:  A Grimoire
%A Katherine Kurtz
%I Del Rey
%D January 1991
%O paperback, US$5.95
%P 370
%G 0-345-36117-2

Popular fantasy or science-fiction series often spawn quasi-historic or quasi-scholarly books of commentary. Imaginatively done, such commentaries can enhance the reader's experience of the original fantasy world, or entice a reader who is unfamilar with that world. Unfortunately, "Deryni Magic," which purports to be a volume commentary about the magic used by the Deryni of Gwynedd, does little more than take up space on the bookshelf.

"Deryni Magic" contains very little, if any, detail about magic, the Deryni, or Gwynedd, that cannot be found in the other Deryni books. Indeed, most of the text consists of quotes from the other books -- often for pages at a time. In addition, 34 pages of closely-spaced text is reserved exclusively for a list of references to the various types of magical acts perpetrated in the pages of the Deryni novels and short stories Kurtz has already written. Although some Deryni fans may well appreciate having these references collected in one place, it scarcely justifies subtitling this book "A Grimoire" -- or charging a $5.95 cover price.

Where Kurtz does not pad her text with quotes or references to her previous books, she engages in some of the most trite and unimaginative commentary this reviewer has ever read. Primarily, she resummarizes whatever descriptions of magical activity or indulges in inconclusive speculation, laced with teasers about stories "that will be told." The following excerpt from what purports to be a discussion of Saint Camber's experience during his ordination is characteristic of Kurtz's approach:

All of Camber's experience takes place within his mind, of course, within a real elapsed time of merely a few seconds. To any human observer witnessing the rite, only the physical act of laying on hands would have been apparent, though a particularly perceptive and spiritual human priest might have inferred some kind of inner process taking place, based on his own experience of ordination, and might even have perceived some change in Camber's psychic aura. Even without the agency of a Deryni bishop consciously channeling such a flow of power, we have reports of similar experiences of spiritual ecstasy in our own world. ("Deryni Magic," pp. 27-28).

It would be speculation to surmise Kurtz's motives for writing "Deryni Magic" merely from perusing the book, but it certainly appears that this volume was produced with the sole purpose of wringing even more money from her loyal cadre of Deryni fans. And it's sad that she has chosen to repay their loyalty with this worthless piece of self-plagiarism.

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Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>