Young Kelson Haldane, King of Gwynedd, heir to both royal and Deryni magical powers, was still no match for ex-Archbishop Loris and the Pretender Queen Caitrin who sought his death. Yet, he raised an army against them both, knowing that honor made defeat impossible.
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3.5 stars Originally posted at Fantasy Literature.
The King’s Justice is the second book in Katherine Kurtz’s THE HISTORIES OF KING KELSON trilogy, which is part of her DERYNI CHRONICLES. It’s the fifth book about young King Kelson. You really ought to read the books in this order: Deryni Rising, Deryni Checkmate, High Deryni, The Bishop’s Heir and THEN this book, The King’s Justice.
Kelson is now 17 years old. In the previous book, The Bishop’s Heir, Kelson and his advisors (Morgan and Duncan) dealt with the rebellion of the province of Meara, which used to be independent. The rebellion was led by a woman who wants Meara to regain its independence and who has a claim to its throne. She was aided by Archbishop Loris, the sadistic escaped rebel priest who persecuted the Deryni. At the end of The Bishop’s Heir, the Mearan prince dealt a brutal personal blow to Kelson.
The King’s Justice is essentially part two of the story of the Mearan rebellion. (There’s enough reminder about what happened in The Bishop’s Heir that you don’t need to re-read that book if it’s been a while.) Kelson has vowed revenge for what the Mearan prince did and he plans to get Meara back under his control and rid the world of Archbishop Loris (for good this time). The story begins with Kelson declaring his Uncle Nigel heir until Kelson has his own son. He and Morgan and Duncan then invest Nigel with some of the Haldane powers so Nigel will be able to rule while Kelson is on his campaign against Meara. Much time is spent on the related planning, debates, and ceremonies.
During all this, Kelson’s mother shows up. For years she has been sequestered in a convent because she is trying to repent for her use of Deryni powers to save Kelson when he was younger. She has been taught that these powers are evil and she thinks, therefore, that she is evil. A subplot of the story involves her disgust of her own son’s behavior. She hopes to find Kelson a nice wife who will discourage him from using his powers. Another subplot involves Dhugal’s recent discovery about his paternity.
As usual, there is a lot of mind-reading, ceremonies, fighting, chasing, captures, rescues, rebellion, assassination attempts, and torture. Even though The King’s Justice is simply a continuation of the story of the previous book, and even though it drags in places (especially the meetings, ceremonies, mind-reading, and torture), I am compelled to read on because I really like Kelson, Morgan, and Duncan and I care what happens to them.
Poor Kelson. He’s only 17, his father is dead, his mother is disgusted by him, and the crown weighs so heavy on his head. A lot of the time I think he is too mature and decisive to be believed, but sometimes, as in this book, he does something immature and impetuous and we remember that he’s still a teenager. In a particularly touching scene, Kelson is shaken up when he’s forced to experience rape from a woman’s perspective. It’s easy to resonate with Kelson. I hope we’ll see him happy and secure on his throne someday.
Katherine Kurtz’s world and characters feel real. When I read the DERNI CHRONICLES, I feel like I’m actually eating a meal in a medieval castle, watching an archery match, riding through the gates of a fortress, or in the midst of a cavalry charge. If you love that sort of epic fantasy, I recommend this series. I’m listening to the audio versions read by Nick Sullivan and produced by Audible Studios. These are very nice productions. The King’s Justice is 14 hours long.