Rereading Katherine Kurtz

Rereading Katherine Kurtz: Saint Camber, Chapters 24-25

Welcome to the weekly reread of Saint Camber! Last time Cinhil’s mysticism achieved magical heights, and Camber shared a bonding moment with Jebediah.

This week the second volume of the Camber trilogy comes to a close. The inevitable happens. Camber copes with it. The book ends in a minor key, with Cinhil, glittery-eyed, riding off into the night.


Saint Camber: Chapters 24-25

Here’s What Happens: Chapter 24 takes us to Day 2 of the bishops’ meeting, with Camber realizing, very unhappily, that his imaginary self is going to be canonized, and there’s no getting out of it. There’s some lengthy business with arranging chairs, some lengthy summary of an annoying colleague’s annoying conversation (none of it reported direct), then an even lengthier summary of the meeting. (Reader rolls eyes and groans. Not the synopsis! Please, not the synopsis again!)

I have completely glazed out. Blah blah names I don’t recognize blah blah Queron blah blah Evaine gets questioned blah blah blah. I wake up enough to realize Evaine plays the Woman Card with major bonus Pregnancy Card, which gets her softballed and quickly dismissed—and she’s smug about it. So is Camber. Blah blah more summary blah blah.

More long pages of blah blah blah as Dualta arrives. We’ve expected this. Blah blah synopsis blah blah.

Oh! At last! Quotation marks! Dualta is emoting about the scene we’ve already long since read, when Camber’s spell slipped and showed his real face over Cullen’s. Nothing new here. Moving on. Apparently the spell that made Guaire relive his adventure is working on Dualta, too, though Queron’s not doing anything.

Camber and Joram, as usual, are not happy at all. Dualta is way down deep in his own drama. When he comes to, he’s embarrassed (and not summarized).

Dualta hasn’t mentioned Cinhil in all this. Cinhil is hiding his face, and there’s a period of Camber speculating as to who knows what he’s actually doing.

Sure enough, with much circling and backing up and skirting around, Cinhil gets all upset and blurty and full of italics. “I was that other witness!”

Shock! Astonishment! Queron pretends he’s apologetic. He never meant, he didn’t intend, oh no.

Finally Cinhil steps into the very obvious trap and says he’ll testify, as a civilian. Jaffray lets him do it without swearing an oath.

Now we’re out of synopsis (Deo gratias). Queron is putting the screws in strong and slow. “You were once a priest.” Ouch.

And then the questions begin. We’ve all seen the scene. Glaze glaze skim skip. It’s the Cinhil’s-eye view, but nothing new, until he gets around to mentioning the other witness: the ephemeral Brother John. Whom no one can find.

The questions move on. Queron is calling Cinhil “Father.” Manipulative, much?

Finally Queron decides he’s done. Everybody is incredibly deferential to Cinhil. He puts on his kingship again—sweeping the hall with “his Haldane gaze.” Everybody flinches.

Except Camber, of course. Of course not Camber. Camber just knows Cinhil isn’t going to punish anyone for making him do something he didn’t want to do. Camber is proud. The boy is learning!

Not only that, Cinhil, as king, graciously allows the proceedings to keep going. He doesn’t need a recess. He’s a dutiful son of the Church, he says. He’s here because the Church invited him. He apologizes for not being totally on board before.

Cinhil has definitely learned to play the manipulation game. He has Jaffray falling over himself to stroke the king’s royal ego.

And then we’re back in synopsis until the chapter, eventually, ends. The conclusion is foregone. Saint Camber will be canonized in two weeks.

Real Camber has stopped trying to fight it. All he can do is figure out how to accept it.

Chapter 25 closes the book with more synopsis, more flicking of virtual calendar pages, and more Camber dealing emotionally with the situation he created for himself.

So now he’s in the shrine of Saint Camber in Grecotha, and pondering real Camber versus mythical Camber. It’s snowing outside—the weather in Gwynedd is always frightful—and he’s trying to understand how his nonexistent saintly self can be working miracles.

It begins to dawn on him that God might be playing with him, and he’s riding for an even bigger fall than he expected. For Camber, that’s major. Being Camber means never having to say you’re sorry.

Suddenly Cinhil shows up, startling him. Cinhil’s shields are getting good.

Cinhil wants to worry at the Camber question again. Camber has to play father confessor/psychologist and get Cinhil talking about his feelings. And since this is medieval and Camber is a cleric, it segues into what God wants for Cinhil. Which is remarkably close to what Camber wants, but then we knew that.

Cinhil responds nicely to this approach. He thinks he can actually move on from his resentments toward Camber.

Camber has to keep this going. He sets up a date for the morning, to say Mass together and continue their discussion. Cinhil is good with that. He says. As “his eyes glitter in the darkness.” And he rides off into the night.

And that’s it for volume II of the trilogy.

And I’m Thinking: This book suffers a great deal from a combination of everybody who’s made it this far already knows how it’s going to end, and author herself not taking the trouble to write out important scenes. It feels as if she figures it’s all a foregone conclusion, so let’s type up the synopsis and mail it in. And in these last chapters, most of what’s here is repetition of scenes we’ve already read.

It feels kind of perfunctory. There are moments when the book delves into feelings, especially Camber’s, but there’s nothing much new there, either. We know how Camber feels about the long con he’s playing, and its most startling consequence, which is entirely his fault, with a little help from his ever so cooperative family. His grandstanding and overly fast tapdancing led straight to the canonization of his putatively dead self.

So there it is. Cinhil is obviously going to turn rogue. With any luck, Camber’s indulgence of Cinhil’s priest fetish will get Camber into further trouble. Bad trouble.

I hope the next book has more scenes and less synopsis. I’m afraid, from the fact that I don’t remember it at all, that it may be even more summary-dense than this one.

We’ll see—starting next week. Meet me here for more magic and mystery and, I hope, considerably more derring-do.

Judith Tarr’s first novel, The Isle of Glass, a medieval fantasy that owed a great deal to Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books, appeared in 1985. Her new short novel, Dragons in the Earth, a contemporary fantasy set in Arizona, has just been published by Book View Cafe. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies and space operas, some of which have been published as ebooks from Book View Café. She has won the Crawford Award, and been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, a blue-eyed spirit dog, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.


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