This is the 2005 second edition of the reference companion to Katherine Kurtz’ classic fantasy Deryni series of novels. (The first edition – published as a limited-edition hardback with slipcover in 1998 – sold out long ago and is only available for obscene prices on the secondary market.) This second edition includes some additional entries and information from the Deryni books published after 1998 that were obviously not available to include in the first edition, so true completists will want it for that reason alone. We could definitely use a new, third edition of the Codex once Ms. Kurtz writes the long-awaited, final book of the Childe Morgan trilogy (when are we going to get that? — it’s been five years since Childe Morgan came out), so I definitely hope that all comes together soon. Fans of the Deryni series are known to be especially detail-oriented (I’ll be kind and not say “detail-obsessed”), so this is a truly welcome companion to the series.
The book’s conceit is that it is an actual historical manuscript discovered in the “present” in the Deryni setting. But what is it exactly? This is a thick, meaty tome primarily containing alphabetically-organized, encyclopedia-style entries of all the people and places (and a few things) mentioned in the Deryni Chronicles. It includes all the major entries you’d expect (Camber of Culdi, Alister Cullen, etc.) and all of the minor ones you don’t remember – anyone recall who Robard was? Nope? Me neither. As it turns out, he was one of Kelson’s scouts during his visit to Trurill in The Bishop’s Heir. Learn something new every day. Each entry also includes a listing of the books and stories the character or place is mentioned. That’s about the first 250 pages. After the encyclopedia portion, we have an equally thorough chronology (year, month, and day, where possible) of every major and almost every minor event that happened in all the stories. That covers the next 80 pages or so. The final section contains a Deryni liturgical calendar, bibliography, genealogies of the royal families, and maps. Whew! Can you imagine how much work went into assembling this reference. The mind boggles.
Negatives on this one are very minor (though I will be nitpicky for the sake of completeness): it’s a bit dry – as one might expect – though the text is certainly not flavorless, and it’s probably not the kind of book that anyone would sit down and read cover-to-cover. But it’s a reference book, so that’s to be expected as well. A listing at the top of each page showing the first and last entries contained on each page (like what traditional dictionaries and encyclopedias do) would have been nice, but probably a layout nightmare. I’d also have liked to see a few more entries on things like Wards and other magical practices, but we can always fall back on Deryni Magic for more information on those sorts of things. Also, the maps included in the back of the book aren’t great. I’m sure the cartography itself is fine, and it had to appear that they were drawn by hand to maintain the illusion that this was an actual manuscript, but “high-tech” looking cartography would have been a plus.
I give this one 4.5 stars out of 5. It’s a great reference work for anyone who enjoys Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni series and it did the one thing that works like this should do: it made me want to pick up the series again and reread them! Highly recommended for fans of the Deryni series.
Review copyright 2011 J. Andrew Byers