books Riddle-Master By Patricia A. McKillip –

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.There are some fantasy epics that all literature professors, and most normal people, would consider essential reading for any well educated person J.R.R Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Lewis Carroll, etc So, yeah, I read those a long time ago But beyond that, there s not much fantasy literature that s essential reading So, for a long time, I didn t read any In my drive to be educated, I stuck to the classics which are classic because they re great literature, usually But one day, maybe 15 years ago, Patricia McKillip s Riddlemaster fell into my hands I can t remember exactly when, and I can t remember how I can t even remember enough to tell you exactly what the trilogy was about It s been that long ago.All I can remember is sitting for hours, slack jawed and amazed The imagery was so beautiful, the writing so elegant, the ideas so powerful Some of the imagery has remained with me I can still remember the awe I felt when Morgon learned how to change into a tree, how to harp the wind, and who Deth was I don t really remember the details of the story very well, but I still feel it.I was sad when I finished the Riddlemaster trilogy, but excited to have found something I loved so much, so I went looking for beautiful fantasy literature It s been my favorite source of entertainment since.Read Patricia McKillip book reviews at Fantasy Literature. For Over Twenty Years, Patricia A McKillip Has Captured The Hearts And Imaginations Of Thousands Of Readers And Although Her Renowned Riddle Master Trilogy The Riddle Master Of Hed, Heir Of Sea And Fire, And Harpist In The Wind Has Been Long Out Of Print, It Is Considered Her Most Enduring And Beloved Work Now It Is Collected In One Volume For The First Time The Epic Journeys Of A Young Prince In A Strange Land, Where Wizards Have Long Since Vanishedbut Where Magic Is Waiting To Be Reborn I chose this book for one reason on the back cover, there was a review which read Patricia McKillip has done something extraordinary, to write a trilogy comparable to Tolkien I was sold Obviously as a writer myself, who is an heir to that honor ridden, legacy laced, return of the king obsessed writing culture, I needed to know what a book looked like that COULD be compared to Tolkien if for no other reason What I found floored me.Patricia McKillip is a masterful writer not so prosey as Tolkien, nor as long winded, but quite as skillful in weaving a tale which invoked the wonderful traveling loyalty themes of the Lord of the Rings However, the major differing point for McKillip s novel is that she unlike many of the Fantasy novelists of her time explores the concept of a FEMALE heroine in fact, an entire book of the trilogy is dedicated to the growth and cultivation of Raederle s inheritance, as it were.I would definitely suggest this book, primarily as either brainfood immediately prior to or following the reading of the Lord of the Rings trilogy a little lighter, a bit easier to digest, it calms the mind and forces it to walk those strange paths though, unlike Tolkien, you occasionally feel as though you are walking that path hand in hand with another. Weak story Shallow world building and characters What on earth I would say exactly the opposite Compared to most of the shallow, sloppy fantasies that are being cranked out these days, this trilogy is absolutely singular in terms of story, world building, and character development This is one I come back to it never disappoints It was written in the 70s, and while McKillip admits being influenced by Tolkien, she succeeds in creating a unique, complex, and meticulously layered world that completely works on its own Definitely in the high fantasy category Unfortunately, her subsequent books haven t even come close due to the complaints of the previous reviewer about this one. As I went further, deeper into this trilogy, my notes grew fewer and sparser Words were slipping away from me, just like the answers of those ultimate riddles evaded Morgon s mind There are few words in the realm of the magic that binds everything into existence and it is a wonder that the author kept finding words unearthing them, weaving them out of the winds to complete this story.I will stop here, because there is something inside me, and I would like to feel it a while longer, rather than chase it away by trying to name it.My notes Even though McKillip admits the influence of The Lord of the Rings on her trilogy in the foreword, it was curious to compare the brisk start of Riddle Master goodness, the Hed family got into a family fight literally D to the serene, hobbit friendly beginning of LotR That s one thing I love about McKillip s writing it does not rush things but doesn t let them loiter either Can you feel the magic It falls with the night The sky darkened slowly as he and the harpist took the long road back to the city on the rough horns of the bay the warning fires had been lit tiny lights from homes and taverns made random stars against the well of darkness The tide boomed and slapped against the cliffs, and an evening wind stirred, strengthened, blowing the scent of salt and night The trade ship stirred restlessly in the deep water as they boarded a loosed sail cupped the wind, taut and ghostly under the moon Also, these two stirred in a row prove that American literature cares nothing about random repetitions, unlike Bulgarian one Not that s a creative punishment Somewhere in here is the spell that made the stone talk on King s Mouth Plain Do you know that tale Aloil was furious with Galil Ymris because the king refused to follow Aloil s advice during a siege of Caerweddin, and as a result Aloil s tower was burned So Aloil made a stone in the plain above Caerweddin speak for eight days and nights in such a loud voice that men as far as Umber and Meremont heard it, and the stone recited all Galil s secret, very bad attempts at writing poetry From that the plain got its name Perhaps McKillip and I have the same bones to grind when it comes to fantasy violence She disregarded his argument and said helpfully, I could teach you to throw a spear It s simple It might be useful to you You had good aim with that rock That s a good enough weapon for me I might kill someone with a spear That s what it s for He sighed Think of it from a farmer s point of view You don t uproot cornstalks, do you, before the corn is ripe Or cut down a tree full of young green pears So why should you cut short a man s life in the mist of his actions, his mind s work A thought struck him as he watched the flames, and he gave a short, mirthless laugh If I were skilled in arms, I might have thrown a spear at her this morning instead of a rock And she wants to teach me There s something I missed all through the first book, something I couldn t quite put my finger on And then Raederle rode into the picture, and ah The inn door opened abruptly, and he turned his head One of the students who had been helping them was precipitated bodily to the cobble stones under the nose of Bri Corbett s horse He staggered to his feet and panted, He s there Rood Raederle exclaimed Rood He touched a corner of his bleeding mouth with the tip of his tongue and added, You should see it It s awesome He flung the door wide and plunged back into a turmoil of color, a maelstrom of blue, white and gold that whirled and collided against a flaming core of red The ship master stared at it almost wistfully Raederle dropped her face in her hands Then she slid tiredly off her horse A robe of Intermediate Mastery, minus its wearer, shot out over her head, drifted to a gold puddle on the stones She went to the door, the noise in the tavern drowning the ship master s sudden, gargled protest Rood was surfacing in his bright, torn robe from the heaving tangle of bodies.His face looked meditative, austere, in spite of the split on one cheekbone, as if he were quietly studying instead of dodging fists in a tavern brawl She watched, fascinated, as a goose, plucked and headless, flapped across the air above his head and thumped into a wall Then she called to him He did not hear her, one of his knees occupying the small of a student s back while he shook another, a little wiry student in the White, off his arm onto the outraged innkeeper A powerful student in the Gold, with a relentless expression on his face, caught Rood from behind by the neck and one wrist, and said politely, Lord, will you stop before I take you apart and count your bones Rood, blinking a little at the grip on his neck, moved abruptly the student loosed him and sat down slowly on the wet floor, bent over himself and gasping There was a general attack then, from the small group of students who had come with Raederle Raederle, wincing, lost sight of Rood again he rose finally near her, breathing deeply, his hands full of a brawny fisherman who looked as massive and impervious as the great White Bull of Aum Rood s fist, catching him somewhere under his ribs, barely troubled him Raederle watched while he gathered the throat of Rood s robe in one great hand, clenched the other and drew it back, and then she lifted a wine flagon in her hand, one that she could not remember picking up, and brought it down on the head of the bull.He let go of Rood and sat down blinking in a shower of wine and glass She stared down at him, appalled Then she looked at Rood, who was staring at her.His stillness spread through the inn until only private, fierce struggles in corners still flared He was, she saw with surprise, sober as a stone Faces, blurred, battle drunk, were turning towards her all over the room the innkeeper, holding two heads he was about to bang together, was gazing at her, open mouthed, and she thought of the dead, surprised fish in the stalls She dropped the neck of the flagon the clink of it breaking sounded frail in the silence She flushed hotly and said to the statue that was Rood, I m sorry I didn t mean to interrupt But I ve been looking all over Caithnard for you, and I didn t want him to hit you before I could talk to you Yes A bar brawl It was definitely a bar brawl Wasn t it They re two aspects of Heir and Sea and Fire that fascinate me, and make me fathom my fascination with this kind of fantasy One, people care for one another as individuals, so much so that they re willing to abandon safety and the whole nations that have been entrusted to them to go look for a friend who s been lost It s completely unrealistic, is it not a ruler wandering off alone, in quest of a single person Yet it speaks to me on that primal, archetypal level that remembers that every woman and man is a star or a world, at the very least The Encyclopedia of Fantasy has captured it well Two, nobody is ordinary it s normal to be extraordinary They we all carry powers, potentials, possibilities Infinite possibilities, as a favorite character of mine would say It is another reminder that speaks to me, and lets me reach for my own powers and possibilities whenever I m faltering, or discern yours whenever world weariness alias cynicism has blinded me.See me soar on these possibilities, gallop with these powers Oh, the power of negotiation Her smile faded Morgon of Hed, she said evenly, if you take one step across that threshold without me, I will lay a curse on your next step and your next until no matter where you go your path will lead you back to me Raederle I can do it Do you want to watch me He was silent, struggling between his longing and his fear for her He said abruptly, No All right Will you wait for me in Hed I think I can get us both safely that far No Then will you No All right then No Then will you come with me he whispered Because I could not bear to leave you But don t let yourself be fooled It will take them another two chapters to find out who is as Raederle puts it pigheaded. The trilogy gets stars than the main character has on his face I was generous, even though it has its flaws Here is why The way McKillip s magic system works is so utterly unique that I dare not compare it to anything Magic is the innate qualities of a thing You understand the thing completely and you are magically connected to it, able to be it or to use it against others People are fooled by illusions that are simply the augmentation of a thing s natural qualities, which the trickster understands very well It s a literalized version of the idea that you must see through someone s eyes and understand their thoughts and feelings to have power over them It works well.But that is not my favorite aspect of the trilogy Perhaps importantly, the characters are splendid They are unpredictable and well rounded Despite a plot that conforms to a few fantasy stereotypes but also breaks with some of them , the characters are all puzzles True to her theme, McKillip makes us wait until the end just to know the real identities of some of them which they often didn t know themselves Naming anything, to her, is power.Her writing verges on poetry I m not just saying it s beautiful though it often is I m saying that it s indirect Meanings creep up on you and on the characters This is a beautiful tactic that, to me, brands something as very McKillip However, I think she occasionally takes it too far I sometimes had to read something twice and ask myself, What the hell just happened She makes it quite clear for the reader by the end, and at points throughout the book But mostly she treads a fine line between ambiguity for poetic purposes andplain ambiguity This may throw readers, especially those who haven t read her work before One thing is for sure her writer s voice has a immense authority She crafts a story with surprises and interesting turns without it feeling arbitrary It s a feeling of, Things really are this way This is really how it would happen I m going to do what I hate to see reviewers do, and compare her briefly to Tolkien for this reason They are both masters of their created worlds McKillip is her own High One.SPOILERSI m biased too, by my love love LOVE of her High One s character, be it Deth or Yrth or finally, his real form I might not say he s my favorite fantasy character of all time thinking of LOTR s Aragorn or Coldfire s Hunter , but he s up at the top He is so sad and so wonderful and a musician to boot always makes me identify with a character When he died I just stared at the page for a little while, uncomprehending or wishing to be. I can t recommend this book.Much is made of the dreamlike quality of McKillip s prose, but I found that this detracted from what could have otherwise been a memorable and different fantasy setting A large number of intriguing plot points are introduced and then never referred to again, swept away in the preoccupation with the characterless protagonist As the reader you never gain any appreciation of his or anyone s motivation, as the plot moves from one travelogue to another Here are a few of those plot points We get no real reason to believe in the relationships between characters, as their backgrounds are so sketchily drawn Why exactly is Morgon in love with Raederle and vice versa Where does the great bond of loyalty between Morgon and Deth spring from What s a Morgol or a land ruler for that matter , and why should we care Why does Riddlery seem to matter so much that there s a College for it Why do some land rulers live for centuries Does everyone in this world develop remarkable, un earned, ill defined magical powers eventually, or just the main characters I struggled to finish this trilogy The revelation at the end of book one was spoiled by being written in black and white in a major character s entry in the Fantasy Masterwork edition Glossary Book two travelled the same path as book one with a different albeit interesting set of characters By book three, so much of the backstory had been forgotten that it was difficult to care what became of the characters Deaths are perfunctory and without any impact the climactic battle for the realm is over within a few pages the shape changers are never given any character or menace beyond being unkillable.I struggle to see why these books are accorded such high praise They seem to be an exercise in diaphanous prose and wasted potential I fear I ve missed the point somewhere Sorry Patricia. 1 These three novels were really formative for me I read them, I think, when I was ten I got this collection for my eleventh birthday, and I d already read them all at least once.2 There s a betrayal at the end of the first novel that ruined me for all other fictional betrayals Caesar Ned Stark KanyeShrug Probably real life betrayals, too Whatever happens to me in the future, it won t be as bad as what happened to ten year old me at the end of The Riddle Master of Hed well, maybe the job market.3 When you first meet Morgon, he s hungover Then he has a fight with his family about his secret life Ah, family happiness Then he leaves them, and there his troubles begin No, no, really they started way back, but no one knows this yet McKillip owes some things to Tolkien, of course she does, and maybe the strongest overlap is the overlap of the Shire and Hed I m not even sure the farmers of Hed believe anything exists beyond Hed, and the High One Of all the six kingdoms, Hed is the only one the wizards never sought service in there wasn t anything for them to do The wizard Talies visited it once and said it was uninhabitable it was without history, without poetry, and utterly without interest The peace of Hed is passed like the land rule, from ruler to ruler it is bound into the earth of Hed, and it is the High One s business, not mine, to break that peace But Lyra said stubbornly If I ever carried a weapon into Hed and told the people of Hed to arm themselves, they would look at me as though I were a stranger and that is what I would be a stranger in my own land, the weapon like a disease that would wither all the living roots of Hed And Morgon, who realizes pretty quickly he s stepped into something bigger than he thought, tries to get back there every change he gets The Riddle Master of Hed be honest that is an awesome title takes Morgon through the six kingdoms this will be important later, I won t tell you how because one of the joys of these books is seeing how something that seems like a lovely bit of detail becomes terribly important later on and in each kingdom he s confronted with something, and each time he tries to opt out But he never does, because you can t opt out of heroic quests But also because he s curious Beware the unanswered riddle, we re told, and it s a lesson Morgon has internalized In fact, he s internalized it so well that he keeps trying to run away from the answer But that only lasts so long, as it quickly becomes apparent that the entire world, really, is conspiring to make avoidance impossible If they kill you in Hed, they ll still be there, and so will Eliard And we ll be alive, asking questions, without you to answer them, Lyra, the warrior princess points out 4 I mean, obviously, there are ways in which my feelings and opinions about this series are not to be trusted I read it at an early, impressionable age my judgment was definitely clouded forever in some ways But I really love the women in these books The second book, Heir of Sea and Fire is Raderle s journey, the answer to The Riddle Master of Hed, and although she retreats significantly in the third book, she stills gets her own development it s, actually, importantly, a development that mirrors and echoes Morgon s What in Hel s name do you think I m doing in this College She let her hands fall and wondered if, behind the armor of his solitude, she had at last got his attention I would be that for you, if I could, she cried I would be mute, beautiful, changeless as the earth of An for you I would be your memory, without age, always innocent, always waiting in the King s white house at Anuin I would do that for you and for no other man in the realm But it would be a lie, and I will do anything but lie to you I swear that Raederle s journey is one of action She s not passive, even at the beginning, but she is slightly ornamental the second most beautiful woman in the Three Portions of An, the great treasure of the Three Portions and she lashes out against that I ve never done anything in my life, she says, long after that s stopped being true.5 People make a big deal about McKillip s prose, which is understandable, because it s magnificent and slightly tricky You do have to read every word in a way you don t often have to in prose, because she elides description and action, so something that starts out as setting the tone might turn out to be an important plot development And McKillip is efficient, economical The Riddle Master of Hed is only 187 pages books 2 and 3 are likewise slim I particularly love the first lines of the first two books Morgon of Hed met the High One s harpist one autumn day when the trade ships docked at Tol for the season s exchange of goods and In spring, three things came invariably to the house of the King of An the year s first shipment of Herun wine, the lords of the Three Portions for the spring council, and an argument But I think they understate the humor Again, understandable the humor is itself rather understated It s there, though and it serves an important counterpoint to the solemnity of everything else Har, the wolf king, is particularly good for this he gets some of the best lines, and I always hear him as Peter O Toole there is something cinematic about these books, but then, the majority of the decisive action takes place inside people s minds so there is something much vital that is quite anti cinematic The unruly royal families of Hed and An are also a source of humor, and of love, and of hope, and of fire.6 Oh, and the other similarity with Tolkien that speaks strongly to me, though I think McKillip commits to it , is the desire for peace. As with other books I will slowly add here, this is one I think the world of, particularly this one and for its love story which moved me to the depths but I will mislead by that comment the love between two people I refer to is not romantic in the conventional sense There is one of those, done and done well, with a wonderful female character who is strong and practical in her own right I should not even have to say that, should I But this other relationship takes the whole trilogy to relate, and is done with a light touch that moves exquisitely, even a sentence is sometimes all that is said, a look, a gesture, a posture.Characters, motives, rich contexts, imagination, high romance not the sexual kind , high drama, and multiple, colourful, likeable individuals shown in depth as well as a strong plot woven in complex layers, are all strengths of this work But aside from all of that, the style and language is simply poetic, simple and lyric, vivid with stark images and feelings powerfully told with few words If I was limited to one word alone, I would say atmospheric. Good Fantasy, if somewhat a little predictable The writing however is pure poetry McKillip s mastery of the English language is downright breathtaking