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Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip

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Submitted by Jeroen 
(Dec 08, 2007)

Patricia McKillip Ė The Riddle-Master Trilogy

The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976)
Heir of Sea and Fire (1977)
Harpist in the Wind (1979)

In the seventies, Patricia McKillip and Stephen Donaldson had a close friendship and both set out to write their own fantasy epic. Donaldson published the first book of his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (which I still have to read) and in the same year, McKillip published The Riddle-Master of Hed. I suppose the two would make a nice pair on your shelf.
Both authors claim to be inspired by Tolkien, but although McKillip admits so, her trilogy is remarkably original. Far more so than piles of epics that do not make such claims. And although there is now available an excellent omnibus of all three parts, her story stays quite unread.

On with the review. McKillipís writing is great. It is not just solid, but also lush and dreamy. At times quite descriptive, but always beautiful:

"The wind sped past like wild horses, pouring through empty rooms, thundering down the street to spiral the tower and moan through its secret chamber."

The book can be reread just for the richness of her writing. But letís not forget her characters. Almost all of them are human. There are no Elves of Dwarves or Dragons in this epic. Only wizards and things-I-will-not-spoil-for-you. They have a very realistic feel about them. Especially in the second half of the story, the main characters are supposed to be romantically involved, but they quibble and whine and on whole really get to know each other. Also the character Deth is one of the most interesting characters in the history of fantasy.
The worldbuilding is very rich. During the story, you will become familiar with its interesting past in moments of creative brilliance. Also her idea of a magical land-rule remains fresh throughout the books and the riddle-society as an alternative to science or an historical institute feels utterly believable. And the story itself is epic alright. Battling armies, ancient powers, world-rule.

Are there no negative comments to make? Well, I didnít like her use of names. Deth, Yrth, Hel, Hed. It sounds too obvious to me.

highly recommended.

Submitted by Terry E Gilman 
(Mar 10, 2005)

This is maybe one of the best fantasy reads of all time. Certainly in the top ten. I read this first when I was about fourteen, and I've read the trilogy numerous times since. McKillip created a truly reluctant hero in Morgan. This is not hack and slash fantasy, but an epic filled with rich characters, incredibly defined geography and a very human perspective...and still, Great MAGIC, mystery and suspense. Even though I've read it so many times I can practically recite it verbatim, I still find myself turning the pages faster as I get caught up in Morgan's quest.

Submitted by Eolill 
(Mar 04, 2005)

I loved these books. I read them in Swedish, but even so, the story is wonderfully intriguing, it takes unexpected turns without killing off the characters that you just have to love. It is masterfully written, her language tells you so much and yet there is room for your own imagination - I remember the first time I read them, I must have been, what, eleven? I didn't quite understand some parts, with little action and much text, where all the magic take place. When I came to the ending of the last book, I was sad, because I thought he had died.

And the magic of this book... it's different than the other magics that you usually meet. Not force, not instantaneously, but power deep in the earth and the mind.

Enthralling. Must read.

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