Devlin's Justice by Patricia Bray
Bantam-Spectra PPBK: ISBN 0553584774 PubDate: 04/06/04
Review by Madeline Yeh
400 pgs. List price $ 6.5
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Author Patricia Bray won the Compton Crook award for best first Science Fiction Novel with Devlinís Luck, and continued the story with Devlinís Honor, but it isnít necessary to have read the first two books to enjoy Devlin's Justice. The authorís web site is http://www.sff.net/people/patriciabray.
The hero of the story is Devlin, the Chosen One. a champion with a magic sword, who defends the kingdom of Jorsk. In the first two books, Devlin is shown as being a very odd choice for this position. He has no love for Jorsk. His own country Duncaer was conquered by Jorsk a generation earlier and besides he thinks the whole idea of a champion is ridiculous. People should take care of their own problems, or organize friends and neighbors to handle big problems.
Devlin also isnít a warrior or a soldier. He takes the job because he needed the enlistment bonus of ten gold pieces, the equivalent of a lifetimeís savings. Once he takes the oath, he finds himself bound by a geas, a magical compulsion, to serve the job faithfully. In the first two books, he grows into the job nicely. He disrupts a scheme to sabotage the weapons in the Royal Army, detects and defeats thieves, stops an invasion, and destroys a traitor, becomes General of the Royal Army and retrieves a lost magic sword..
Now Devlin is returning back to the capitol with the lost sword. The kingdom had been beset by plagues, pirates, monsters, robbers and invasion. The kingís council canít agree on any action. Devlin had supplied some leadership, but with him gone, King Olafur, confused, and indecisive, is torn between his advisors. King Olafur is hoping for aid from an old ally, the empire of Selvarat. Devlinís friends and allies in the capitol are desperately waiting for his return. They hope he would be able to persuade King Olafur to act against the growing turmoil.
Devlin finds himself secretly betrayed by his king, and a prisoner of a Selvarat Prince. Prince Arnaud wishes to find out how to duplicate Devlinís geas. He hopes to duplicate that geas on his own men, and force them to join him in a revolt against his empress. At first Devlinís friends believe him secretly murdered. Olafur has taken to arresting or killing all his opposition. When they find out that he is still alive, they leave the capitol to rescue him. Next they have to drive out the Selverats and deal with King Olafur.
This book is fast, and readable. The characters are interesting and distinct. They have separate personalities and interests and I found myself eagerly following them through the story. They act very fast and its a whole lot of fun following them. The separate points of view enhance the story ranging from open warfare to covert conspiracy. The world is a generic fantasy world with horses and swords and magic and gods and guards and musicians and peasants and nobles. All the fantasy elements are used in a reasonable manner, but not a realistic one.Unfortunately, the universe doesnít stand up to close examination, and a whole set of unlikely circumstances occurs to advance the plot. Devlin is kidnapped from the middle of the Kingís Palace without witnesses or commotion. The Selvarat army manages to occupy the eastern provinces of the kingdom before the royal council hears a rumor of it. Thieves break into the royal chapel going past the city guard and the palace guard without trouble. King Olafur manages to arrest or disappear various of his nobles with setting off a general outcry. This is a fairy tale sort of kingdom and it stretched my willful suspension of disbelief. .
Patricia Bray is not a new author, but has several romances to her credit, besides this trilogy. This can be seen in the dialogue and the character interaction. The dialogue is very good, and the characters interact well. The prose is a little heavy and verbose Patricia Bray explains too much. Michael Crichtonís science fiction has this flaw. Conclusion: Itís an ok read with some fun elements. Actually the fun elements were mainly in the first novel, this one is darker. One good point is that the world and story are original, not a rip off of an existing fairy tale or a historical story.