Wow. I don’t know where to start with this trilogy — The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind — by Patricia McKillip. I’m at a loss for words.
It’s a huge, dense book, a homage to Lord of the Rings. And as a homage, it’s brilliant. Instead of copying the world, or the ideas from Tolkien, she used the themes — of redemption, of the passing of an age, of harnessing and the temptation of power — to craft a masterful work. I was caught up in the story, in the world, wanting to know the answers.
But… it was almost too dense. I would read passages and think “What the heck just happened?”, and re-read them. And they wouldn’t be any clearer. I’d go on with the hope that everything would make itself known in the end. I suppose if you read a book entitled Riddle-Master things are probably going to be confusing for a while. But, when the end finally came, and the resolution, I was oddly disappointed. Perhaps it was that I saw it coming pages before, but just didn’t quite figure it out. Or perhaps it was too pat and I wanted more. But I don’t know what that would entail.
I really enjoyed the first and second books. The first is Morgan (the Riddler of the title, the Prince of Hed, the Star-Bearer) figuring out his destiny, and traveling the realm looking for the High One (think High King) to get some answers. It ends with a spectacular cliff-hanger, which isn’t fully resolved until the end of the third book. The second is all about Raederle, who is Morgan’s love, companion, friend. Morgan disappeared for over a year after the end of the first book. She got worried. And, despite the objections of her father and all the other land-rulers (think oh, the lesser kings in LOTR), she and Morgan’s sister Tristan, and Lyra (a kick-butt guard; think Eowyn) they go looking for him. Raederle figures things out about herself, for herself, and becomes, gradually, Morgan’s equal (or at least comes close) in power. It’s quite the book.
The third, however, doesn’t work as well. It builds up, and builds up, but is way too dense to have made much sense to me. I tried to get it, but it all came crashing down in the end, a huge battle, thousands of lives lost, power thrown and hurled everywhere, and I couldn’t visualize it. I didn’t get it. I don’t get it. Someone will have to explain it all to me.
Still. I’m not sorry I read it. Thanks again, Corrine, for sending the book. I’ll get it back to you soon.