Katherine Kurtz,
In the King's Service
(Ace, 2003)

In the King's Service is set in a time of relative peace for both the Kingdom of Gwynedd and the Deryni who live there. Katherine Kurtz fleshes out some of the history of both in this new novel.

The king of the title is King Donal Haldane, the current ruler of Gwynedd. The book itself focuses more on Lady Alyce de Corwyn, a Deryni heiress. (For those unfamiliar with the books, the Deryni have powers and are somewhat feared for the influence they can have over others.) While Lady Alyce is protected somewhat from the hatred against her kind she still needs to watch what she does. There are, after all, still secular and religious laws setting limits on what the Deryni can do and have.

Death is ever present in the book; young ladies dying in childbirth, knights dying in combat and the odd murder or two. The ripple effects of these deaths are traced outward, some are foreshadowed, and others come out of hatred with no warning. Allegiances and loyalties are another very important part of the book. Politics and courtly life are not always safe, and they do not always mix well.

Not all of the questions touched on in the book are answered, often as the characters asking the questions are not in position to get the answers, or at least not yet. The Deryni Council (a secret group that quietly rules the Deryni) still has questions about the death of a member and is unable to get those answers from King Donal. There are other issues that come up near the end of the book that are not fully answered, the seeds of problems in future years.

In the King's Service is a subtle novel, relying on well-written characters and intrigue. That is not to say there is not action, but it stems out of the politics of nations and kings.

- Rambles
written by Paul de Bruijn
published 1 May 2004

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