Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 686
Daggerspell begins the story of Nevyn, a disowned prince, who becomes a master of the magic art of dweomer. He does so to atone for his youthful indiscretion that resulted in the disgrace and death of those nearest to him and his own banishment. The first part of the story...
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Daggerspell begins the story of Nevyn, a disowned prince, who becomes a master of the magic art of dweomer. He does so to atone for his youthful indiscretion that resulted in the disgrace and death of those nearest to him and his own banishment. The first part of the story takes place in the seventh century, when Nevyn (then named Prince Galrion) is torn between the girl he loves and his desire to study the magic discipline of the dweomer. He inadvertently causes his betrothed lover and her brother to engage in incest, leading to their deaths, as well as the death of a rival suitor. Prince Galrion is disowned by his own father who now calls him Nevyn (which means "no one"), and he is cast out forever from the privileged noble class. He makes a vow to never rest until he atones for his errors, and the gods hold him to his pledge. Nevyn leaves with a master of the dweomer to study herbal healing and slowly learn the ancient magical lore that will aid in his attempts to fulfill his destiny.
Most of the balance of the novel takes place 400 years later, with Nevyn as an old master of the medical arts and the dweomer. Nevyn has been kept alive by the gods and the magical crafts he has learned. Over the generations, he continues his task of identifying the persons who are the reincarnations of his long-lost lover and her brother. Whenever he identifies those who now carry their souls, a task that requires all of his subtle dweomer skills, he must seek to intervene in their lives to help them avoid once again their tragic fate of centuries past.
A girl named Jill is the latest reincarnation of Nevyn's lover, and a prince named Rhodry is her reincarnated brother. Jill has a talent for the dweomer, as evidenced by her ability from childhood to see and communicate with the Wildfolk, gnomish sprites that are magical creatures invisible to most humans. She is the illegitimate daughter of a mercenary named Cullyn, the best swordsman in Deverry, who is also a "silver dagger," a disgraced soldier cast out by a nobleman's house. When her mother dies suddenly, Jill continues to work in her mother's role as a waitress at an inn, before being taken away by Cullyn, who is a sword for hire, for a life on the road. While with Cullyn, who ends up being a good father, she learns the ways of sword craft, while hiding her dweomer talents of talking to the Wildfolk.
The most compelling sections of the book occur once Nevyn identifies Jill, Cullyn, and Lord Rhodry as the latest reincarnations of the three people whose deaths he caused four centuries earlier, and he works to try and avoid another tragic end to their lives. Cullyn and Jill are hired to guard a trader going to visit the dangerous lands to the west, which are populated by elves called the Elcyion Lucar. Nevyn goes along as well in his guise as a traveling herb healer. The elves, who can all see the Wildfolk, recognize Jill's undeveloped dweomer skills.
While returning, Jill, Cullyn, and Nevyn are attacked by insurgent lords who are seeking to overthrow Lord Rhodry. They eventually meet up with Rhodry, who is fighting to save his birthright lands and his honor against the conspiracies of his jealous older brother, the King of all Deverry. Rhodry also discovers that he is half-elvish, a fact that will play a major role in his destiny. All of Nevyn's dweomer skills arid Cullyn and Jill's fighting skills are needed to attain an honorable end to the conflict, in which unknown practitioners in the dark dweomer arts are involved.
In the end, however, Rhodry's jealous brother tricks him into an indiscretion that leads to his banishment. At the end of the novel, Rhodry escapes his brother's assassins to become a silver dagger, and Jill follows him as partner and lover. The later novels continue the adventures of Nevyn, Rhodry and Jill, with Jill becoming a dweomer master in her own right.