Harrowing the Dragon ★★★★☆

harrowingthedragon (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Harrowing the Dragon
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 86K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

“The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath” (from Elsewhere, Vol. II, Nov. 1982) – a young dragon harrower and a girl from a mining village clash over whether the land’s long winter is caused by a dragon.

“A Matter of Music” (from Elsewhere, Vol. III, Apr. 1984)

“A Troll and Two Roses” (from Faery!, Jan. 1985)

“Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son” (from Dragons and Dreams: A Collection of New Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories, Apr. 1986)

“The Fellowship of the Dragon” (from After the King: Stories in Honor of J. R. R. Tolkien, Jan. 1992) – Five young women are tasked by their queen with saving her lover, the court harper.

“Lady of the Skulls” (from Strange Dreams, Jul. 1993) – a story of personal transformation requiring a knight to look past what meets the eye.

“The Snow Queen” (from Snow White, Blood Red, Jan. 1993) – retelling the familiar fairy tale in a contemporary setting, highlighting the universality of love, loyalty and desire.

“Ash, Wood, Fire” (from The Women’s Press Book of New Myth and Magic, Nov. 1993) – the story of a cinder-girl who has reduced the people around her to their functions as she sinks into her own essence.

“The Stranger” (from Temporary Walls: An Anthology of Moral Fantasy, Oct. 1993)

“Transmutations” (from Xanadu 2, Jan. 1994)

“The Lion and the Lark” (from The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors, Apr. 1995) – a “beauty and the beast” retelling, in which a young woman loves a shapechanger, loses him, and must prove her love through many tests and trials.

“The Witches of Junket” (from Sisters in Fantasy II, Apr. 1996)

“Star-Crossed” (from Shakespearean Whodunnits, Sep. 1997) – the Verona constabulary investigate the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

“Voyage Into the Heart” (from Voyages: The 25th World Fantasy Convention, Nov. 4, 1999) a heartless hunt to acquire a unicorn’s horn.

“Toad” (from Silver Birch, Blood Moon, Mar. 1999) – a “frog prince” retelling in which the prince is far from innocent.

 

My Thoughts:

It did not feel like it had been 13 years since my previous read of this book. While not quite “just yesterday”, if you had asked me point blank and I had to simply rely on my memory, I would have said from 5-8 years ago. How time flies!

This was a real mixed bag in terms of both interest and writing. Some stories were more interesting than others and some of the writing was much better than others. It also felt like McKillip was really experimenting with stuff and figuring out what worked for her and what didn’t. Considering the stories were written between 1982 and 1999 I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting place for McKillip, as I feel that a familiarity with her style is necessary to be able to appreciate some of the very quirky stories told here. For someone with a couple of her books already under their belt, this would be a solid edition to your reading and to be able to experience some of her writing in shorter form.

This was the last McKillip book I had for this cycle of re-reads. I began back in 2017 with a re-read of The Tower at Stony Wood and now I end in 2020 with Harrowing the Dragon. Three years to read 21 of her books is just a win on every single count. I enjoyed them all, I hopefully praised them enough (I really think I did but covering my bases just in case, you know?) and I trust that I dragged at least one person into McKillip’s sphere of influence.

So while this particular journey has ended, the road is still there and I know I can re-travel it any time I like. Perhaps in another 10-15 years. The question then will be who I am at that point and will you be around?

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Kingfisher ★★★★½

813bb0ae2cd9d5bf7e732d08597f0bd9This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kingfisher
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 302
Words: 87K

 

Synopsis:

From Tor.com & authored by Alyx Dellamonica

Pierce Oliver lives in a world that fuses our high-tech present day with the top-down political structure of a high fantasy medieval kingdom. It’s the kind of place where limousine-riding kings preside over jousts, where the court magicians argue over the academic citations and feminist interpretations of their ancient texts, and where the bastard princes are doing well if they manage to stay out of the tabloids. The country’s biggest ongoing problem is keeping its surplus of troublesome knights from taking it into their heads to overthrow the government.

When Pierce is a young man this hardly matters, because he lives in a small town far removed from the capital, a backwater whose existence is known to but a few. His home is in fact concealed by magic, an enchantment wielded by Pierce’s somewhat clingy mother, Heloise, a retired witch living incognito as a slow foods restaurateur. One day three knights stumble through town by accident, and by the time they’ve moved on, Pierce has decided to strike out on his own, seeking information on the father he never knew and–perhaps as importantly–cutting the apron strings that have bound him so tightly to his mother’s chosen refuge.

Packing up his car and charging his cell phone, Pierce heads down the road and almost immediately stumbles into–rather surprisingly–another restaurant, this one in a dilapidated hotel called the Kingfisher, a place that has fallen on hard times. There he encounters Carrie, a hard-working chef who also dreams of escaping her particular Nowheresville of a community. Pierce partakes of a peculiarly ritualistic fish fry there, before spending the night in one of their rooms. On his way out the door, he gives in to an irresistible not-quite-whim to filch a cooking knife from the place.

The theft, of course, is less a failure of moral fiber than a magical imperative, and by the time Pierce makes it to the capital, the effects of his minor act of banditry are reverberating throughout the land. The King has decided to declare a nationwide quest for… well, definitely for something. A grail? A relic? A fountain of youth? Whatever the Object in question is, his upstart knights will surely know it when they see it. In the meantime, if their motoring forth and scouring the kingdom keeps them from getting up to revolutionary scale trouble, so much the better.

The problem with this scheme is it isn’t entirely a PR scam. The quest Object is real enough, and the mere idea of seeking it sets off a feud between two major religions, a fight that breaks down more or less on gender lines: there’s a cult with masculine, metal-dominated values and a male god, and a watery, priestess-led faith centered in the ladies’ birthing chamber. Both sides are absolutely, positively sure that the quest’s Object belongs to their patron deity. And for at least some of the men and women on the hunt, this ambiguity is awesome, simply because it means they have a license to stampede around the whole countryside, kicking over lesser shrines, sifting through their relics, and beating on anyone who might object.

Carrie and Pierce have other problems too, in the form of a third restaurant owner, a slippery figure called Stillwater who is almost certainly in the know about whatever it is that has blighted the Kingfisher Inn. Now he has his sights set on Carrie herself, and is tempting her with job offers she definitely ought to refuse.

Publishers Blurb & Me

Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, unexpectedly, strangers pass through town on the way to the legendary capital city. “Look for us,” they tell Pierce, “if you come to Severluna. You might find a place for yourself in King Arden’s court.”

Lured by a future far away from the bleak northern coast, Pierce makes his choice. Heloise, bereft and furious, tells her son the truth: about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen, and Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, his path twists and turns through other lives and mysteries: an inn where ancient rites are celebrated, though no one will speak of them; a legendary local chef whose delicacies leave diners slowly withering from hunger; his mysterious wife, who steals Pierce’s heart; a young woman whose need to escape is even greater than Pierce’s; and finally, in Severluna, King Arden’s youngest son, who is urged by strange and lovely forces to sacrifice his father’s kingdom.

Things are changing in that kingdom. Oldmagic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to its former glory—or destroy it.

In the end, Stillwater is recaptured by the women of Ravenshold, Prince Damion brings peace between Ravenshold and Wyvernshold, the magic is brought back in balance to the Kingfisher and the Holy Grail is revealed to be a magic cooking pot used at the Kingfisher.

My Thoughts:

The reason this still only gets 4.5stars instead of 5 is because of the cover. I’m sorry, but Kinuko Craft covers are the physical embodiment of the stories that McKillip tells. This bland, no-nothing cover is a blot. Now, that is the fault of the publishers, so I don’t blame McKillip one iota but it still plays a part. Penguin, and their imprint Ace, should be heartily ashamed of themselves. In fact, I would gladly volunteer to help them commit seppuku for this disastrous, face shaming act they committed against this great book.

Now, there are some differences from her previous books. This takes place in “modern” times even while magic is in existence. There is also a much larger cast of characters. There are also several concurrent storylines instead of just the one or two. These various differences, while not bad, definitely contributed towards this feeling like a highly embroidered neckerchief instead of a wall scroll with one central picture. Smaller in scope but more “things” going on to keep one occupied.

I was thinking this was the last McKillip I had on my re-read journey and was pretty sad about that. It was coloring this whole read until about half-way through I realized I still had a collection of short stories to go through entitled Harrowing the Dragon. Then the sun came out, the birds began chirping and cherries fell directly into my mouth, already pitted. Life was wonderful again 😀

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Bell at Sealey Head ★★★★★

bellatsealeyhead (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Bell at Sealey Head
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 245
Words: 71K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The small ocean town of Sealey Head has long been haunted by a phantom bell that tolls as evening falls. The sound is so common that many of the town’s inhabitants do not even notice it, let alone questions its existence. Ridley Dow, a scholar from the city, comes to investigate the mystery, and sets up residence at the old inn owned by a young man named Judd and his ailing father. To aid Ridley, Judd enlists the help of his friend and love-interest Gwyneth, a young woman who writes her own stories to explain the bell.

On the other side of town is the ancient manor Aislinn House, whose owner, Lady Eglantine, lies dying. Emma, a servant in the house, is able to open doors that lead not into another room, but into another world. On the other side of Aislinn House’s doors is castle where the princess Ysabo moves through her daily rituals, tasks that Ysabo hates and does not understand, but cannot question. While Emma and Ysabo are able to speak to one another, neither has ever tried to cross into the other’s realm.

When Lady Eglantine’s heir Miranda Beryl comes to Aislinn House, Sealey Head’s secrets begin to reveal themselves, sometimes with dangerous consequences. Miranda brings to Sealey Head an entourage of friends from the city, as well as a strange assistant. As the town gets pulled deeper into the strange magic that Ridley, Judd, Gwyneth, and Emma uncover, Ridley breaches the border between Aislinn House and Ysabo’s world. It is only when the bell’s location and owner are discovered that Aislinn House and all of Sealey Head are able to return to safety.

 

My Thoughts:

I so enjoyed the time I spent reading this. While my reads in March were pretty cool, there is just something about McKillip’s writing that soothes my soul.

Everything I might have to say I’ve said about McKillip before. I’m not going to repeat it ad nauseum. Beautiful language, highly recommended, go read it.

You Are Welcome.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Bards of Bone Plain ★★★★½

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Bards of Bone Plain
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Digital Edition



Synopsis:

From the Wiki

The book is set in a culture reminiscent of the medieval era, but technologically near-modern, and in which archaeology is also an established profession. Scholar Phelan Cle of the Bardic School at Caerau chooses as his graduate thesis the subject of the perhaps mythical Bone Plain, where all poetry is said to have originated, and the tale of the wandering bard Nairn.

Meanwhile, archaeologist Jonah Cle, Phelan’s alcoholic father, pursues his own investigations, urged on by his dedicated disciple Princess Beatrice, the king’s youngest daughter. At the standing stones near the school is unearthed a strange artifact, a disk marked with ancient runes that may prove key to the mysteries of Bone Plain. Beatrice soon discovers indications of the lost language it represents everywhere.

Alternating chapters recount the activities of the Cles and the princess and the legend of Nairn, and gradually the present and past are revealed to mirror each other and ultimately fuse.

My Own Little Bit

Turns out Jonah is Nairn and that Welkin/Keldin is simply trying to reverse the curse Nairn brought upon himself from the first competition back in history. Jonah faces Keldin thinking he is taking his son’s place but Keldin uses it to restore to Jonah his musical ability. Everybody lives happily ever after and Phelan’s best friend Zoe Wrenn becomes the next Royal Bard, only now she knows about the magic in the music.

My Thoughts:

McKillip doesn’t let me down. The mystery of language is explored in her typical lyrical way and the journey is beautiful with the way she crafts her story. As I noted in my 2011 review (linked below), she doesn’t hide quite so much in poetic form so the overall story is easier to understand. I liked that last time but this time I’m not really so sure. I think I would have liked MORE mystery, not less!

McKillip has moved her writing from a straight Medieval to a late 1800th Century, with automobiles and the like while still having bards and bardic schools. The magic is a given though, while most people in the story have forgotten that magic even exists.

With this move forward in time McKillip also brings forward some more modern ideas and those are what will keep this from being a 5star read for me. Several times she has unmarried couples sleeping together and that being completely normal. It was more striking to me because of its absence in her other works.

I’ve only got a couple more McKillip books to read through before this cycle of re-reads is over and honestly, I can tell I’m going to miss her stuff. I simply love her writing!

And finally, I’m including the full art spread for the cover by Kinuko Craft. They’re just so beautiful.


★★★★½


Bards of Bone Plain (2011 Review)

Od Magic ★★★★★

odmagic (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Od Magic
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 328
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Brenden Vetch saved most of his village from the plague but he couldn’t save his parents. He learned the magic of plants all on his own and now he wanders, listening to what the plants tell him. One day a woman named Od appears before him and tells him to go to her school in the big city, as she needs a gardener. He’ll know the entrance by the sign with the boot on it. Sick at heart and ready for a change, Brenden goes and finds the door. He enters, meets a wizard and finds out that only very special people ever find the door with the boot on it. All the other students enter through the front gate.

The King of the city, and his ancestors, started the school in honor of Od when she saved the kingdom hundreds of years ago. Slowly they have usurped its powers and decreed that only magic they control is allowed.

A wandering magician enters the city, only to entertain. But circumstances set the king off so he sets his own wizards on the trail of the magician to either control him or remove him and his troupe (said magician performs magics of illusions for the crowds) from the city.

At the same time the princess is to be married off to the head wizard, a man who is controlled completely by the rules of magic that the kings have set up. When she realizes this wizard will never allow her her own small magics taught her by her grandmother, she runs away to find the wandering magician to learn outside magic and to gain her freedom. This sets the King off even more.

At the same time Brenden accidentally shows what he is capable of to the head wizard. Realizing what he has done, Brenden runs away. The Head Wizard chases after him.

Everybody ends up in the North Country where there are 8 Stumps, which are beings of immeasurable power but who are afraid of humanity. Turns out Od is their representative to Humanity so they can all co-exist. Brenden must help the human magicians look beyond the limits they’ve set for themselves so that they won’t be afraid of unknown magic.

 

My Thoughts:

This hit the spot. I really needed a good book after the stinkers I had last week. I slid right into the rhythm of the story like sliding into silk pajamas. My mind and senses felt caressed by the writing. It was just plain soothing.

There was a LOT going on. Brenden’s story, the wandering Magician, the Princess, the Stumps, Od herself, and all of the side characters swept along by each of the main characters. In a good way, it was easy to lose myself in the story. But I never felt like McKillip lost a thread or made a mistep there. Each character was balanced within the overarching plot and at no time did I ever feel like a particular point of view was too long or too short. It just flowed together perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, every sentence of it. I had no issues with anything, well except maybe for wishing it was slightly longer, but I feel that way about every McKillip book. Of course, she writes just the right amount for the story she is telling.

If you haven’t started to read McKillip’s body of work by now, then nothing I can say will galvanize you. You won’t get any contempt from me, just pity. And trust me, getting pitied by me means you’re pretty low on the totem pole…

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld ★★★★☆

forgottenbeasts (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 242
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Sybel is the grand-daughter or great grand-daughter of a nameless mage. She has inherited the power to control things by naming them. She has no bigger ambition than to call the Lyralen.

Until one day a knight drops off a baby boy in her lap and rides away. As the boy grows, Sybel’s heart grows and she comes to love Tamlorn as her own. But Tamlorn is the son of a king and the king, one Drede, comes looking for him. Tamlorn was given to Sybel by Drede’s enemies, the house of Sirle. Once Tam realizes he has a father, he goes to live with him and Sybel tells Drede that she has no interest in the war between him and Sirle.

Then the knight comes back, one Coren. He wins Sybel’s heart and manages to give up his hate of Drede and all that he has done. Drede, afraid of Sybel’s power and not believing she won’t use it against him, buys the service of another wizard who will take Sybel’s name, break her will and make her a willing, loving puppet for Drede to marry. Sybel escapes and tells Coren’s brothers that she will use her power for them against Drede, wthout telling Coren what happened to her or why she is suddenly fighting against Drede.

In a fit of remorse, Sybel frees all her magical animals who were to lead the attack against Drede and she flees back to her home in the mountains, convinced that Coren can no longer love her and that Tam can no longer love her since she orchestrated the attack on his father Drede.

It ends with things not turning out at all like Sybel imagined, as her animals do their thing and Tamlorn becomes king without bloodshed. She and Corin are re-united and he teaches her the lesson of love.

 

My Thoughts:

This was the first McKillip book that I would say had a real edge to it, some bite. It takes some uncomfortable subject matters and deals with them specifically but non-graphically.

Sybel’s forebearers all took their mates by force. They used the power of naming to call and control them. Sybel gets a taste of this very thing when the wizard takes control of her. It wasn’t just attempted, or in the case of her ancestors, actual, rape, but also the complete loss of self within the mind. It was the rape of body AND mind and McKillip doesn’t shy away from showing how it affects people.

She then goes on to show how Sybel reacts in some really bad ways, such as erasing her husband Corin’s memories of what he sees when he catches her plotting with his brothers for war. She violates him just like she was violated and it destroys her inside. So much that she tries to lose herself at the end of the book by calling the Lyralen.

And yet, at the very end when Corin AND Tam come to her and show her the power of real love, it redeems it all. I think that was what this book was all about. Just how strong love is and just what it can conquer.

I love a Love Conquers All story and this was that in spades.

When I read this back in ’07, looking at my rating and review, I can tell I wasn’t really impressed back then. But a decade more of life experience, being married and some down and dirty church politics has shown me that yes, Love is the be all and end all. Being a Christian helps narrow down what Love actually is and I’m even more convinced today than I was 10 years ago of just how much God loves His creation.

I’ll end this like I began it. This has an edge and a bite that most of McKillip’s other books don’t. If it bothers you, try some of her others. If you like it, don’t expect it to be there.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

The Cygnet and the Firebird (Cygnet #2) ★★★★ ½

cygnetfirebird (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Cygnet and the Firebird
Series: Cygnet #2
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 315
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Taking place 2 weeks after the Sorceress and the Cygnet, we follow the continued adventures of Nyx Ro and Meguet Mervaine.

A magician invades Ro Holding looking for a hidden key of Chrisom’s. Nyx and Meguet foil him. At the same time a magical firebird that turns everything to jewels and gold with its cry comes to Ro Hold. Nyx figures out it is an ensorcelled young man and in her studies he, she and Meguet all go to the land of Saphier. Where the first magician lives as well.

Saphier is ruled by the son of a magician and a dragon and he, Draken, wants ALL THE POWER. And he wants Ro Hold. It is up to Brand (the ensorcelled young man, who happens to be Draken’s son), Nyx, Meguet and Rad (the first magician) to put a stop to Draken’s quest to conquer all of time and space.

The dragons solve it all because the humans are annoying them.

The End.

 

My Thoughts:

SO MUCH BETTER THAN The Sorceress and the Cygnet. There is no Corleu. In fact, there are no stupid characters; confused, unsure and discombobulated characters, but not an idiot in sight! And that pushed this book right into traditional McKillip territory. Beautifully worded phrases, symbols and pictures with much deeper meanings, lyrical prose that you have to follow like a song. It was everything that I like about McKillip.

I found this more polished, more lyrical and more fantastical than Sorceress. Sorceress was a rough fairytale told by farmers after a tough season of haying. Firebird felt more like a courtly bard singing a story before the entire court. Obviously, with me being King Bookstooge, I prefer the latter.

I was glad to have read the duology so close together. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed Firebird so much if I didn’t have the immediate taste of Sorceress still on my mental tongue.

This, along with Austen, is the kind of romance that not only can I stand but actively enjoy. It is understated but powerful, much like a current in a river. Too many authors rely on the rapids of the river for their romances and it always upsets my literary canoe and tosses me into the drink. I don’t like that. But this, this is like gliding down the Mississippi on a shady day. You can’t ask for much better.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

 

The Sorceress and the Cygnet (Cygnet #1) ★★★☆ ½

sorceresscygnet (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Sorceress and the Cygnet
Series: Cygnet #1
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 235
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Corleu, a wayfolk man, gets lost with his love in a fog. He escapes, only to find it was all a setup by powerful characters from what he assumed was only folklore. The Gold King, the Blind Dancer, the Fire Bear, the Warlock and others all promise Corleu the return of his love and any wish he desires if he’ll only find and deliver the heart of the Cygnet to them.

Nyx Ro has spent the last 9 years running from her responsibilities as Holders Daughter and gone far and wide across the land, learning more of magic than anyone even knew existed. Her Hold, symbolized by the Cygnet, is now in danger and Nyx must decide what she’ll do. What she does is teach Corleu the magic he’ll need, for she desires the power of the heart for herself.

Meguet Vervaine, sworn champion of Hold Ro, is without magic but she won’t let that stop her from stopping Corleu OR Nyx. Only it turns out she isn’t without magic, but filled with a different kind of magic, one to protect the Cygnet.

Everyone comes together in one climactic showdown, where it turns out that the Fairytale Powers were there simply to show Nyx her way, to awaken the powers within Meguet and to show Corleu his roots.

The book ends with them all eating cake and singing kumbaya around a campfire. That’s me being a smartass, not how the book really ends. Just in case you couldn’t tell.

 

My Thoughts:

When I first read the Cygnet Duology in ’07 I was particularly annoyed with Corleu for being a muzzy headed muckerhead. That hasn’t changed one bit in 10 years. I still found him just as annoying and stupid this time around as I did last time. I don’t know if it is because I’m pigheaded or my Yankeeness or what, but if someone starts trying to manipulate me, my reaction is to just stop. There are consequences to that kind of in/action, but I just put my feet down. Corleu, and like characters, tend to float along like dandelion seeds being blown hither and yon, simply reacting to the threat right in front of them without thinking about what it means or anything. That always sets me off.

Thankfully, Corleu isn’t the focus for the whole book. He’s the focus for the first third, then Nyx gets her third and then Meguet gets her turn.

I have to admit that I skimmed some of this and I know that when you do that to a McKillip book you miss out on details. Basically by the end I still had NO clue why the Constellations all ganged up against the Cygnet or what they actually accomplished. I felt a bit like a muzzy headed muckerhead myself to be honest. Definitely a book I want to re-read again in the future to try to tease out the real meaning hidden in all the words.

This is not a McKillip book I would broadly recommend to just anyone. If you’ve read all her other stuff, then try this. But don’t start with this, not at all.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

 

The Book of Atrix Wolfe ★★★★ ½

atrix (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Book of Atrix Wolfe
Series: ——
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 254
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Atrix Wolfe, a powerful mage, is drawn into a conflict between 2 Kingdoms. One fateful night he uses his magic to put an end to the conflict and things go horribly wrong. He conjures The Hunter, a living nightmare of pain, terror and death. One king dies, the other flees, broken completely.

Many years later, the 2nd son of the dead king, is attending the Wizards School. He is recalled home and takes a book with him. His elder brother, unable to have heirs, makes him the heir and wants him to settle down and begin stabilizing the royal line, ie, get married and start making babies. Prince Talus agrees but still wants to study the magic book he brought home, little realizing it is the Book of Atrix Wolfe and the words contained are twisted by Wolfe’s despair at what he had done all those years ago.

In his mucking about, Talus calls the attention of the Hunter again, gets kidnapped by the Queen of the Faeries and is the fulcrum upon which turns the fates of many. The Hunter’s nightmare must end, the Faerie Queen’s daughter returned, Atrix Wolfe atoning for his misdeeds and Talus saving his brother’s life.

Just like a fairytale, there is a satisfying ending, even if not a happy ending, for everyone’s storyline.

 

My Thoughts:

The Book of Atrix Wolfe was my first McKillip book. I read it back in ’05 and over the next 2 years gobbled up her back list of books. I had never come across an author who wrote like this and it blew my mind. I became a fan of hers with this book and it holds one of those special places in my mind.

So it was with trepidation that I began my re-read. Things change in 12 years. My “little cousin” was in first grade and a bossy little boy when I first read this. Now he’s 6’4” and graduated highschool. I am now married, bald [well, shaved. Receding hairline isn’t fun for anyone] and about 25lbs more muscular [hahaha]. Of course, most of the changes are inside and not always easy to see or for me to even know. * insert Zen aphorism about mirrors and the back of one’s head *

My concerns were well founded, unfortunately. The story was just as good, the writing even better. But I could not accept the lack of communication between the various characters. The Faerie Queen’s lover and her daughter have disappeared on the fateful night and she has been looking for them ever since. She knows that Atrix Wolfe is responsible, but instead of asking for his help, she kidnaps Talus, uses him as a go between and even then STILL doesn’t actually tell him what is wrong. Atrix Wolfe won’t tell anyone about the Hunter, even while it is active again. Talus won’t tell his brother about the Faerie Queen and just goes off and does his own thing.

It was all extremely fairy tale like, so that type of thing is expected. But it really bothered me this time around and I couldn’t get past it. I knocked off half a star for that. It didn’t help that I’d been dealing with a sore back, lack of work and issues at church. I didn’t have the patience or reserves to accept the foibles of fictional characters.

Other than that issue, this WAS just as good as before. McKillip is a master wordsmith and her use of the english language is enchanting. She doesn’t just use words and sentences “correctly”, she knows them and the rules well enough so that she can “weave” them. It is the difference between a paint by numbers picture of the Mona Lisa and the actual Mona Lisa.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. The Book of Atrix Wolfe (2005 Review)

Song for the Basilisk ★★★★★

basilisk (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Song for the Basilisk
Series: ——
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 318
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The city of Berylon was ruled by 4 Great Houses, which in turn were led by House Tourmalyne. 30 some years ago House Griffin [Tourmalyne] was overthrown by House Basilisk, led by Arioso Pellior. Pellior killed every direct member of House Griffin, or so he thinks. One young boy survives and is spirited away to the Isle of Luly to become a nameless bard.

Caladrius grows up, has a son and refuses to remember. Until he makes his trip off the island and realizes that he must revenge his family and destroy House Basilisk. He becomes a nobody musician and works his way into the palace. With a magic lute filled with killer fire, Caladrius plans on assassinating the Basilisk at his birthday celebration. What he doesn’t count on is his son also coming to the city to find him.

He also doesn’t count on the daughter of the Basilisk having the same powers as her father. But where the Basilisk is evil, it isn’t so clear that his daughter is. Caladrius must decide if revenge for his past is the worth sacrificing the future of his son. And when it becomes apparent that the Basilisk plans to rule Berylon from beyond the grave through his daughter, she must decide if House Basilisk will stay ascendant over a dead city or bow its head to House Griffin and return things to their rightful place.

 

My Thoughts:

This book was about the power of magic within the guise of music. I don’t know how to go about talking about this book without just fanboying. McKillip can write like no one else I’ve ever read. I think then next book of hers I will read selections outloud to see if there is rhythm to her sentences. Her words flow.

The story itself is good. A tale of revenge that redeems itself instead of creating more death and destruction. The use of multiple instruments to show characteristics of the various people was fun to realize. It was skillfully drawn and I couldn’t remember which direction the Basilisk’s daughter took, so the ending was new all over again. The benefits of waiting 11 years between re-reads I guess.

Last time I gave this 4 Stars, but this time around I’m calling this a solid 5. McKillip’s writing is top notch. It is well crafted and more than that, it is artistic. It is a joy to read the story and a joy to read the wordcrafting itself.

Part of the reason I like most of McKillip’s writing so much is that this is as close to poetry as I’m going to get and to enjoy. I’ve tried various books of poetry throughout the years and each time it has defeated me and left me bored. But I WANT to like Poetry.

I’ve also included a high quality picture of the full cover art. I’ve included the link so if you click it it will go full size in its own window. Definitely the top contender for cover love in my June Roundup & Ramblings.

★★★★★

 

kinukocraft_songforthebasilisk_1997_1001

 

bookstooge

  1. Song for the Basilisk (2006 Review)