Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 575
The central character of Camber of Culdi is Camber himself. It is not surprising that Camber becomes the center of legend and is even canonized, for Kurtz gives him every advantage: He is wise, gentle, stern, a master politician, a doughty fighter, a kind father, good master, intellectual giant, and...
(The entire section contains 575 words.)
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The central character of Camber of Culdi is Camber himself. It is not surprising that Camber becomes the center of legend and is even canonized, for Kurtz gives him every advantage: He is wise, gentle, stern, a master politician, a doughty fighter, a kind father, good master, intellectual giant, and possessor of the greatest and most fluent power in Gwynned. For all this, however, Camber still emerges as human and believable. He is subject to doubts and to grief, and he exhibits a dry sense of humor. In other words, Camber is not simply set forth as paragon: Camber lives, acts, and feels.
Kurtz uses Camber in several ways. He is the sounding board for other characters. He and Joram are meant to act out the classic confrontation of father and son (although this is stated more than shown). Camber and Alister Cullen exemplify the man of intellect and the man of action, and the ways they can overlap. Camber and Cinhil are contrasting types of idealists: Camber the pragmatic, able to act on his idealism; and Cinhil, the dreamer, preferring his ideal world to remain just out of reach.
Perhaps Camber's most interesting relationship is with Brother Benedict, born Cinhil Haldane, rightful heir to Gwynned's throne, and yanked from the peaceful anonymity of his cloister to take that throne whether he wills it or not. The two men in many ways mirror each other. Both have a real vocation. Camber, in the court of the books, will go from the active man of the world to become leader of a religious order and finally bishop. Cinhil, on the other hand, moves oppositely, from monk to king, from God to world. And yet neither ever fully leaves behind his original bent. Camber remains politically active, and Cinhil mourns his lost priesthood to the detriment of his kingdom and his family. Camber, a man born to lead and to shoulder responsibility, must retreat more and more, eventually surrendering even his personal identity to further the cause of the kingdom. Cinhil, although of the royal blood, never really accepts his kingship or his responsibilities as king, although he performs such duties as are required of him.
Cinhil is one of the most complex figures in the novel. The other characters decide upon their course of action and then follow it willingly and with determination. Cinhil is never given the luxury of choosing his own way, and so his doubts and fears and even his very human selfishness and anger are understandable. When he manages to act with dignity or compassion for another, one senses he has gained a real triumph, even though he invariably relapses immediately.
Each of the other characters in Camber of Culdi is masterfully drawn, so that despite the crowded canvas no character is ever confused with another. Each is a brightly-delineated individual.
Oddly enough, however, Kurtz seems to be uneasy about working with women and romance. Her men are individualistic, drawn by a master hand, but her women are little more than one-dimensional figures. Ariella of the Camber series can hardly be distinguished from Charissa of the Deryni books. Bronwyn and Megan are virtually interchangeable even though their situations are vastly different. Even Evaine, the most fully-drawn, seems to be but a more evolved version of Richenda, Morgan's love-interest from the Deryni trilogy. For the most part, Kurtz's female characters are mere plot contrivances and lack the lifelike richness of her male characters.