A Time of Exile
By Katharine Kerr
Paperback, 394 pages
A Time of Exile is book 5 of a 15 book series by Katharine Kerr, segmented into 4 parts. So while it’s book 5 in the overall series, it’s book 1 of the Westlands segment. Check out the wiki for a breakdown of the novels. If you’ve never heard of this series and you like epic fantasy (high fantasy? I’m really not versed in genres) – I would recommend that you check it out, but be prepared to invest yourself in this series. I’m only on book 5 and it already feels like a long journey, but not in a bad way. These books have kings, knights, elves, fairies, gnomes, betrayal, wars and all the other trappings that come to mind when you think about high fantasy. What I think makes these books unique is the theme of reincarnation – what I consider to be the current or main story line starts in the year 1063, yet the characters in this timeline have already lived several past lives, constantly intertwined, each life having some sort of effect on their next life. Personally I’ve never read anything like that – so if you think it sounds intriguing, give it a shot. It is a little confusing at first, remembering who used to be who, but it’s a lot less to memorize than George R.R. Martin’s cast of characters!
So check out Daggerspell, Kerr’s first book in the series. I’ll also add that my introduction to this series was actually in high school and I started with The Red Wyvern, book 9 overall but book one of the Dragon Mage segment. I read the three books in that segment without knowing it was part of a longer series and loved them. I discovered a few years ago that there were more books but I didn’t actually start at the beginning until recently (last December I believe). What’s great is that when I read the Dragon Mage books, I got a vague idea that there was more to the story than I realized, but at the same time, it was a complete trilogy and worked well on it’s own.
In conclusion, give it a chance, if you haven’t yet!
For those of you who might have read this series, I don’t have too much to say about this book, but here’s a little review:
This far, I still think the first book is the strongest. The rest of the books have had their slow patches and at times I felt like they would never end, but overall I’m still pleased with this series and totally willing to continue on to the next books. I’ve rated books 2-5 with four stars to be consistent with all the sites I use (eg: Amazon and Goodreads don’t allow half stars, while Librarything does) but I feel like they’re really more of a 3.5. A Time of Exile felt more compelling than the previous few books and what really helped is that Kerr focused on another part of her world – the primary focus of this book was on Aderyn and his time spent living with The People (aka elves). It gave an explanation as to how he ended up living with them and developing his powers, as well as showing more of the lifestyle The People lead and the issues they’ve dealt with over the years. We also saw a few more incarnations of Rhodry as Maer in the 918 timeline and Meddry in the 980 timeline. The events revealed in these segments of his past just add layers of character development to Rhodry and his friends in the 1063 timeline.
However, Rhodry actually drives me nuts and I really don’t like him – he’s whiny, controlling, demanding, petulant and vengeful. I’m not really convinced he was designed to be likable, so I don’t mind disliking him. He doesn’t lessen the books for me, in fact, it’s nice to see such an imperfect lead character. What is frustrating is the lack of maps (at least in my edition). I honestly can’t keep a mental image of the over-world Kerr created, especially since I’m only reading one of these books a month. Nothing stays fresh in my mind and when she’s talking about wars between Deverry and Eldidd, I really have no idea where they are in relation to each other, so it’s harder to keep track of the drama and whose side I might like to be on. The main characters in this book aren’t always the “big players” in Kerr’s universe, so while I know who Maer is, I have no real idea of the lord he’s supporting or where he lives, or why I should care that Maer’s lord is fighting another lord.
But these are minor issues, and as I said, I really enjoyed getting a better look at the lives of The People. The end of this book was especially intriguing – I enjoyed the last sentence immensely. While it is a cliffhanger, I own the next book, so I can rest easy knowing I can find out what happens at my leisure (which will probably be next month) – that’s another nice thing about reading a series that’s complete.