Friday, August 12, 2016

Kingfisher by Patricia McKillip (review)

In the new fantasy from the award-winning author of the Riddle-Master Trilogy, a young man comes of age amid family secrets and revelations, and transformative magic.

Blurb:  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... 

My review:

4.75 out of 5 stars

Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip starts with a simple young man, Pierce Oliver, who goes on a quest to find his father, despite his mother’s protests. His discovery of previously unknown relatives, acquisition of an unusual knife, and shocking introduction to a complicated society demands that he remember the teachings of his magical mother even as he comes to learn more about his family and heritage. He is not the only one in search of his identity, as the royal offspring and others set out on a quest that is initiated by king and his advisors but turns out to have implications for far more than just the realm of Severluna.

This mystical fantasy reminds me of why I am always hesitant to start one of this author’s books. I am enchanted by the intricate prose and fascinated by her ability to weave commonplace occurrences with fantastical events and mystical meanings, and I can’t get anything else done until the story is finished. It’s been quite some time since I fell in love with her ‘Riddle-Master of Hed’ trilogy, which offered new gems every time I read it, but this story reinforced the magic that she can weave with her words.

There are so many classic mythological motifs blended in this story that are counterbalanced by pragmatic modern elements such as motorcycles, cars, and cell phones, that one’s head spins while trying to juggle the disparate elements that nonetheless are woven into an engaging tapestry. The sheer fun of floating along the storyline and hanging on during the whirlpool story changes while all of the threads eventually coalesce reflects the water theme of the overall story and I daresay that each reading of this book will reveal new aspects.

I love the unexpected twists and phlegmatic acceptance of fantastical elements, such as a young man crabbing being accosted by a group of men whose shadows show that they are more than they seem—but so is he. The multilayers of the story and the seemingly effortless blending of a multiplicity of actions that all lead back to a single point made this an exquisite read that will undoubtedly tempt me to revisit again and again these atypical knights who quest for a revered prize as well as their true identities and roles in life. The sheer number of intriguing characters and odd situations and half-solved mysteries make me hopeful that this world will be revisited in the future, as I am sure there is a plethora of tales that can still be told about those in Severluna and the rest of the unusual lands.

A copy of this delicious title was provided to me for review, a version of which was submitted to Night Owl Reviews

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