For years the provinces of Deverry have been in turmoil; now the conflict escalates with the kidnapping of Rhodry Maelwaedd, heir to the throne of Aberwyn. Intent on rescuing him, his beloved Jill and the elven wizard Salamander infiltrate the distant land of Bardek, where Rhodry is held captive. Tied to Deverry by obligation and circumstance, the immortal wizard Nevyn begins to see that all the kingdom's problems can be traced to a single source: a master of dark magics, backed by a network of evil that stretches across the sea. Now Nevyn understands that he too is being lured to Bardek--and into a subtle, deadly trap designed especially for him.
Katherine Kerr's writing takes a bit of getting used to, but it's worth the effort. She approaches her stories with a Celtic storytelling mindset, which means she conveys events according to their significance to the story, as opposed to chronologically. Consequently, while the stories begin in the "present" (which is an elastic concept, anyway, in a fantasy setting), the events unfold, chapter wise, both in the "present" and in the distant past. This can be frustrating, at first, but Kerr's writing is heavily steeped in Pagan and Western Mystery tradition, and the Celtic setting (and mindset) of her characters means that time, or chronological time, is not essentially relevant. To be honest, I found the first book infuriating, as I spent a lot of time trying to adjust to the writing style. However, I found the story engrossing enough that I persevered, and by the second book was so hooked I've read all ten in her three series.
Kerr's story evolves around the concept of reincarnation, and unfinished business, and "karma", and fate. The same souls recur again and again, just in new bodies, over the course of the centuries over which the story unfolds.
Kerr's world is one of High Fantasy, populated by Elves, Men, and Dwarves, as well as faeries/elementals, which she terms the "Wildfolk". However, hers is a slightly more dark, dangerous and less clear cut world than the works of other High Fantasy authors, not the least due to the fact that someone who was your friend in a former life can re-emerge in the story centuries later as a foe, and vice versa. There is a tremendous amount of magic, but it's the magic of the Western Mystery tradition (quite a bit of Golden Dawn and even Enochiana), and that of R.J. Stewarts Faery tradition. There are dragons, and giant beast men.
The Elves are a fallen race, driven out of their magnificent and palatial cities centuries before by invaders, and who now roam the plains as primitives. They possess the potential to be superlative magicians, but the knowledge was lost in the fall of their civilization. Humans, though warlike and shorter lived, have preserved this knowledge, but guard it jealously. The Wildfolk, basically magic incarnate, are unhinged from the effects of "karma", but lack permanence of personality, and cannot grow or develop, cursed to stagnation. The Dwarves are a secretive mystery, entrenched within the earth. Each has something to offer the other, and the story that unfolds is the story of this "technology" exchange, of sorts, between them.
Fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley, who clearly influenced Kerr, will be enraptured by this series, as will fans of Kate Eliott, who Kerr, herself, clearly influenced. It's phenomenal! Devotees of the New Age, Esoteric or Occult will find themselves nodding and smiling as they read, and sincerely hoping Kerr's writing will do for the Western Mystery and Faery traditions what Bradley's has done for Wicca.