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Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

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The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia A. McKillip

My first encounter with Patricia A. McKillip, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Told in the style of a myth or fairytale, this is the story of Sybel, a young and very powerful sorceress (more of a conjurer, really) who has a very traumatic encounter with another wizard that starts her down a path of vengeance that takes her to places she was never previously interested in going and exposes her to emotions she had never previously felt.


This is, primarily, a story about an emotional journey, but it maintains a poise and dignity that belies the melodrama inherent in the phrase "emotional journey." A big part of the gravitas of the book is achieved by the consistently mythic tone that McKillip uses in her prose. It's not written like a myth is written, though; this is no Le Morte d'Arthur, no dry telling of noble deeds and base villainy. The prose itself is actually quite beautiful, and the mythic quality adds a thin layer of separation between the reader and the raw emotions of the characters. The intensity of the interpersonal relationships is therefore somewhat, but not entirely restrained, enabling the reader to get what they want out of the love story aspect of the tale while still being able to take the story seriously in a literary sense. This would be quite the juggling act for most authors, but McKillip makes it look easy.


The characters were great, too. The human characters were very well-realized, and were delightfully complex and believable in their reactions and motivations. No bad guys or good guys here, just various people with differing points of view. The Beasts themselves were incredibly interesting, as well, especially the riddling boar, Cyrin. Parsing the meaning from his sometimes opaque riddles was very enjoyable for me.


In short, a terrific tale told terrifically. Highly recommended to anyone who's tired of the same old trope-filled epic fantasy stories, and who wants to read a fantasy novel with depth and meaning as well as creatures and magic.