The Harrowing of Gwynedd Characters
by Katherine Kurtz

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The Harrowing of Gwynedd Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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Three major characters share center stage in The Harrowing of Gwynedd, a tale of intrigue and high fantasy. Evaine MacRorie, the only surviving daughter of Camber, had worked with her father in his scholarly and occult pursuits. She appears frequently in the preceding trilogy, but without revealing much about her personality or motives. In The Harrowing of Gwynedd, however, she is the primary focus of the action. With Camber, King Cinhil, Evaine's husband Rhys Thuryn, and many other towering figures gone, the remaining Deryni look to Evaine for aid and leadership. And what an extraordinary leader she turns out to be. With her rare insight into present and threatened political developments, she skillfully holds together a diverse group of talented and sometimes erratic Deryni nobles. At the same time she is the only one qualified to do the necessary research into the forgotten and proscribed mystical lore that might settle her father's spirit. Along with these multiple responsibilities, she must also manage to nurture and educate her three young children. Evaine must deal with her grief and spiritual questioning alone, lest her discouragement infect others.

In nine prior Deryni novels, Kurtz has not portrayed her female characters in much depth, even where their actions are integral to the plot. Evaine's central role in this book, and especially the complexity that emerges in her character, thus comes as a pleasant surprise. It is also noteworthy that in a genre where adolescents seeking their calling and women warriors predominate as heroines, Evaine MacRorie is neither. She is now a widow and a mother, confident in the practice of her scholarly and magical skills, and she makes a difference in her world through social and spiritual accomplishments rather than through sword-play.

The second important player is Queron Kinevan, a former Gabrielite brother and a talented Healer. Queron appears sporadically in the previous books as the founder of a new order, the Servants of Saint Camber. At that time his dedication to this task made him an annoyance to the MacRorie family. Knowing that Camber was not actually dead, and having a distinctly uneasy feeling about his premature elevation to sanctity, his son Joram, Evaine, and Camber himself tried to underplay Queron's cause without questioning his piety.

Now, however, with Camber assassinated and the whole Deryni race under siege, Evaine and her brother see Queron in a different light. A short, wiry man whose loyalty to Camberite causes is unquestioned, he becomes the chief implementer of tactics to save obscure Deryni from persecution. When Queron is taken into confidence by the inner circle and shown Camber's true identity, his faith is tested but not crushed. He becomes a prime exemplar of how trust and responsibility can hone the judgment of a formerly headstrong person.

Prince Javan, the third major character, is second-in-line to the throne, born just minutes after his twin brother Alroy. He starts out as a frightened young boy thrown into circumstances he can scarcely make sense of. In the course of the novel he learns to control and mask his part-Deryni powers, to discern the real motives of wily Council members, and to employ a harmless measure of duplicity in order to survive and keep in touch with the circle who protect and counsel him. Javan is likely to need all these abilities in the future, as Alroy is frail, naive, and rules only as a puppet of powerful and unprincipled men. Despite the dangers of his position, Javan retains his high spirits and painful sense of honesty, and is a most appealing young man.

Other important characters include Evaine's brother, Father Joram MacRorie, and Revan, an irregular evangelist whose cult of a second baptism is used to "block" and provide safety for many vulnerable Deryni. The stage is crowded as well with many nobles and religious figures of good and evil intentions. Although in some cases a previously suspicious character may be revealed as innocent and helpful, for the most part Kurtz peoples her works with sharply defined heroes and villains.