Book Review: The Adept

The AdeptI found this series when I was in college, based on the fact that I was already a fan of Katherine Kurtz. Her Deryni series took high fantasy and magic use to a spiritual realm that I hadn’t seen in any other author, so the blurb on the back of this book really caught my attention:

He is Sir Adam Sinclair: nobleman, physician, scholar–and Adept. A man of learning and power, he practices ancient arts unknown to the twentieth century. He has had many names, lived many lives, but his mission remains the same: to protect the Light from those who would tread the Dark Roads. Now his beloved Scotland is defiled by an unholy cult of black magicians who will commit any atrocity to achieve their evil ends–even to raise the dead.

In recent weeks, as I’ve been in the process of editing my own debut novel and considering the influences that led me to write what I’ve written, I have had to nod in Kurtz’s direction. On her website she notes:

While adding novels to the Deryni series, Katherine began further utilizing her historical training to develop another sub-genre she calls “crypto-history,” in which the “history behind the history” intertwines with the “official” histories of such diverse periods as the Battle of Britain (Lammas Night, one of her favorites), the American War for Independence (Two Crowns for America), contemporary Scotland (The Adept Series, with co-author Deborah Turner Harris), and the Knights Templar (two more novels with DTH, plus three anthologies of short stories about the Templars).

So naturally I had to revisit this old favorite to brush up on my own approach to crypto-history.


The joint authorship between Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris is seamless and results in descriptive scenes like this:

Adam pursed his lips, nodding as he realized what Peregrine had glimpsed–echoes of a past life whose details were only accessible to Adam himself when in a deeply altered trance state, and mostly elusive during ordinary consciousness. As a psychiatrist, he preferred to believe that his “far memories” were psychological constructs–tricks that the mind played, in order to deal with material more acceptably couched in the fantasy of a past existence than in the cold, stark terms of reality. The mystical part of him preferred to believe that it all was literally true, in some way he could not begin to explain.

This is “mystical mumbo-jumbo” couched in scientific terms and accessible via spirituality that I thoroughly enjoy. That it’s wrapped in a mystery to be solved with real-world, life-and-death stakes adds to the vibrancy of the tale. In fact, my copy of this book is quite dog-eared for all the many times I’ve loaned it to friends with the injunction that this reality might be closer to my reality than theirs is. That the good versus evil philosophical discussions are backed up with the practical impact evil choices have in the real world is even more eye-opening.

Anne McCaffrey’s cover quote about this being a “late-night turn-the-pager” continues to be literally true for me, no matter how many times I’ve read it. Its pacing and length mean it’s very difficult to put down–balanced by the knowledge that it won’t take long to finish anyway. So I can unconditionally recommend (again!) this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, who likes to see the good guys win, or who appreciates a deeply spiritual underpinning to the motivations that drive the main characters of the story.

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