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Title: Heir of Sea and Fire
Series: Riddlemaster #2
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
Raederle, the woman betrothed to Morgan, sets out to find him as he has gone missing. She hooks up with some others, one of them being Morgan’s younger sister and sails all over. Morgan has thoroughly disappeared though and the landheir power has been passed on to his brother. This usually means the original holder of said power is dead and almost everyone but Raederle believes Morgan to be dead.
Part way through Morgan is revealed to be alive and chasing after the Bard who betrayed him AND that the wizard Ohm has been masquerading as The One (the magical master of the whole land). Raederle must convince Morgan to not take his vengeance against the Bard as it will destroy who Morgan is.
Raederle also comes into powers of her own. She finds out that one of her ancestors was a shapeshifter from the sea and this blood has bestowed peculiar power to her. Considering that the shapeshifters were doing their best to kill Morgan in the previous book, Raederle isn’t sure how Morgan is going to act when he finds out his betrothed belongs to those who wanted him dead.
The book ends with a showdown between the dead of Hel, controlled by Raederle and the Bard and Morgan. Morgan is convinced to show mercy and then he and Raederle set out to track down Ohm and get some answers for all the mysteries going on.
While I am giving this 4stars this time, I completely understand myself for giving it 2 stars back in ’07. This was trying to tell a fantasy story that needed a trilogy and McKillip kept going between fantasy writerstyle of the day and her own style of lyrical prose. It makes for an unsettling read as at one point you’ll have everything spelled out for you and then 10 pages later some monumental revelation is made as an aside in some oblique reference to some myth.
That was the weakness of this book and I am not sure that it can truly overcome that weakness. It’s the same problem I had with Riddlemaster of Hed and the main reason I wouldn’t recommend these as starter books for someone looking to get into McKillip.
Now that being said, since I have already read almost everything of McKillip’s and am currently re-reading everything, I can appreciate this book for its strengths.
This borrows heavily from Welsh/Welch (love that grapejuice by the way!) myth with the lands of Hel, Awn, etc and the unsettled dead and magic held by the lands rulers. If you’ve ever read The Prydain Chronicles by Llloyd Alexander, you’ll recognize a lot of the places and situations McKillip uses in this book. I think having that pre-existing knowledge will help a lot in understanding just what is going on, since there is so much happening without being spelled out. McKillip was writing for a well-read audience and I think a more modern audience will miss out on a lot of references, references that make this a much fuller, richer story.
Raederle was a great character. She wasn’t pie in the eye in love with Morgan, since she had only known him as a friend growing up. But since he was her betrothed, she was going to find out what happened to him. It showed a core of steel in her character. That showed her as strong but not some kickass heroine where her femininity was completely overshadowed by her being a man with breasts. She wasn’t a warrior, she couldn’t sail the ship she was on but there was NEVER any doubt that it was Raederle driving and leading everyone else on. When she confronts Morgon about his quest for vengeance, she doesn’t kick his legs out from under him and pin him down until he submits. She supports the parts of him that she does admire and lets him see that and lets that support decide him.
The supporting characters, from Morgon’s younger sister to the ghost of the King of Hel (that is him on the cover, lusting after his skull, which had been nailed to a midden pile and that Raederle used as a bargaining chip in obtaining his help) to Morgon himself were just as good.
To end, I once again thoroughly enjoyed another McKillip story while definitely not recommending this as a starting place for anyone thinking about a McKillip journey. Get some “experience” with her as an author and then come back to this.