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Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray
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Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray
Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Apr 30, 2002 | ISBN 9780553584752

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  • Dec 18, 2007 | ISBN 9780307418012

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Author Q&A

Dying is easy—it is living that is hard, because nothing of value comes without struggle. This is the core truth that Devlin of Duncaer discovers during the course of Devlin’s Luck. The story begins as a tale of his despair, but his experiences transform him and ultimately this is a story of redemption and hope.

The inspiration for this book came as I was thinking about survivor’s guilt and what it would be like to be the sole survivor when all those you had cared about had perished. How could you reconcile yourself to the fact of being alive? And what if others also blamed you for surviving, convinced that you had not tried hard enough to defend those who had died?

In my mind, I began to see the central character of Devlin’s Luck—Devlin of Duncaer, a man who lost everything that gave his life meaning when his family was killed in a massacre. He is betrayed and forsaken by his remaining family and friends, who blame him for his family’s deaths—but not as much as he blames himself. He longs to leave the bitter reminders of his former happiness behind and join his family in the spirit realm, but there is still one last task he must fulfill. He can not take his own life until he has secured the future of his brother’s orphaned children.

He journeys to the Kingdom of Jorsk, where the King has offered a generous reward to anyone who will fill the position of Chosen One, champion of the Kingdom. Devlin eagerly accepts, for the reward will provide for his brother’s family, while the position itself is a certain sentence of death.

I used the character of Devlin to examine the fantasy archetype of a single hero who saves the world. Like myself, Devlin finds the idea of a single designated champion to be absurd. He sees the Jorskians as sheep, helplessly awaiting their slaughter rather than trying to defend themselves. In Devlin’s homeland, everyone shares the burden of defense, relying upon each other in a complicated network of family ties known as the kinweb. It is the ultimate irony that Devlin now finds himself completely alone, the very symbol of what he despises most.

And once he is named Chosen One, his troubles have just begun. The people he has sworn to protect either scorn him as a mercenary, or fear him since he is a man living under a death sentence. The noble courtiers disdain him as a foreign peasant, while the Captain of the City Guard sees him as merely a tool to be used in place of risking her own troops. Wagers are made on the probable date and manner of his death.

Devlin is adrift, cut off from his people, culture and language. Everything is strange here, in this cold country where the natives drink pale wine instead of honest ale. He is a metalsmith who no longer practices his craft. Husband, father, brother, no longer. There is nothing left except a pale shadow of the man he used to be.

He has neither the desire nor seemingly the skills to survive, for this newest Chosen One can not even wield a sword. But Devlin surprises himself and the Jorskian court by surviving his first quest, and then his second. Slowly he becomes accustomed to life in this strange place, and learns that there are those who would befriend him—if he will let them.

His growing success makes him a symbol of hope, and gains him both new allies and powerful enemies. Gradually he finds himself drawn into court politics, allying himself to those who would seek to save the Kingdom from the chaos that is slowly tearing it apart.

Devlin still seeks death, but now he wants his death to have meaning. And he is unwilling to serve any agenda except his own. He cares nothing for the bickering nobles. Nor does he spare much sympathy for the ill-advised King Olafur, who watches and frets but takes no action to defend his people. But Devlin sees himself in the common folk of Jorsk, and in those troubled folk of the borderlands who have been abandoned by their King. It is these people that he is determined to save, by whatever means necessary. He knows the task is far too great for any one man, but hopes that his courage and sacrifice will inspire others to carry on in his memory.

Through Devlin’s trials, I explore what it means to be human, and what makes us who we are. Even cut off from his past, from his family, and from everything that had defined him, at his essential core Devlin is still the same person that he has always been. He is a man of courage and honor, one who values friendship and loyalty above all other virtues. His soul has been scarred by his experiences, but he has not been broken. Even in his darkest moments, he remains true to himself and to the ways of his people.

Devlin’s hardest challenge doesn’t come from the monsters he faces, or the assassins who stalk him. It’s not the scheming courtiers or vengeful sorcerers. His hardest challenge is accepting his own survival—forgiving himself for being alive.

Only time can heal him. Time and the realization that though he could not save his own family that there are others he can help protect.

The obstacles that Devlin faces are very different from the ones that you or I see every day—lake monsters, magical creatures, treacherous nobles and strange sorceries. And yet his internal conflicts are the same that ordinary people face. I enjoyed the challenge of writing this story, balancing the fantastic elements with the human dimension. Ultimately it is Devlin’s character that drives this story, and his personal transformation that provides the resolution.

The title Devlin’s Luck refers to the fact of Devlin’s survival. Originally he views it as ill-luck that kept him alive, and that keeps preserving his life in the face of constant danger. But gradually he comes to realize that it does not matter whether it was good luck or ill that kept him alive. What matters is what he chooses to do with the rest of his life.

In Devlin’s Honor, the next book in this series, I’ll explore what happens when the transformed Devlin returns to his own country in search of a mystical sword of power. There he must face his past, and quell an uprising led by his own people. And the trilogy will conclude with Devlin’s Justice, in which Devlin will finally get to battle the true enemies who menace Jorsk, and to secure the Kingdom’s future.

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