Tag Archives: Patricia McKillip

Harpist in the Wind (Riddle-Master Trilogy: Book 3) by Patricia McKillip

The conclusion of the Riddle-Master series finds Morgon and Raederle struggling to find the mysterious High One and the reason for the war that has spread across the realm. The quest begins simply enough as they head for the ancient wizard’s city of Lungold. This book, like the other two, has almost all of its action take place on the way to destinations instead of at them. Morgon and his bride-to-be struggle on the journey and have their characters developed. They fall into traps, escape, get to Lungold, where they fall into a trap, escape, head to another destination, fall into a trap, escape…I think you get the idea. The main riddles of the book, if not the series, are who is the High One, who are the Earth Masters, and what does one have to do with the other? These questions have needed to be answered for a long time, and when they finally are, it almost really doesn’t matter.

Patricia McKillip’s writing is quite good. She describes details and emotions with a power to draw the reader into imagery. The effect is such that – like the illusion that the wizards of this book so often create – there is an illusion that this story has more of a plot than it actually does. Thankfully, in the final third of Harpist, the main plot is finally revealed, and yet when it is, there’s not really any more to it than what one kind of expects. The motivations behind the final reveal and what all the characters are fighting about are basically left to the idea that power corrupts. It’s vague, but at least the writing was nice.

There are moments of real emotion in the book. Raederle’s character is continually the touchstone for any strength this series has found. I have read many reviews that claim that this is that reader’s all time favorite series. My only conclusion is that they have connected with these characters in their brief moments of genuine insight. Each of them, especially Deth the harpist, have the potential to be major fantasy characters, but at the end of the day, plot helps flesh characters out, and these books were lacking in it. Florid prose does not a series make.

The Riddle-Master Trilogy had many good ideas and characters – even though their fullness didn’t quite pan out. There was enough here that I would be willing to try more from this author. If you read this series, you may not be disappointed, but there’s also plenty of other fantasy out there you should hit first.

5.5 out of 10 stars

The Riddle-Master Trilogy

4.5 out of 10 stars

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Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master Trilogy: Book 2) by Patricia McKillip

The continuation of the Riddle-Master trilogy, Heir of Sea and Fire, gets going with a little more steam than the first book of the series did. That selection, The Riddle-Master of Hed, just seems to lag from the beginning and only developed a decent pace more than halfway through. This was not the case with this book. The pace starts steady and builds throughout to not a dramatic conclusion, but at least, a fitting one.

The heir mentioned in the title is Raederle, the promised bride of Morgon, the aforementioned Riddle-Master. The story follows her and an unlikely group of girls as they quest toward Erlenstar Mountain to find Morgon. Whether it’s because the protagonist of this tale is female or she has a better understanding of where she’s going with the story, the author seems to develop the characters in a more relatable way. Raederle becomes the first person that you care about. You understand what motivates her and how she’s torn between love of family and love of her promised Morgon. Her personal battles drive the story. Her inner world is more interesting than the world she’s moving through.

Unfortunately for the series, the unknowns about the motivations of the evil Ghistestlwchlohm (say that three times fast!) are hindering the real immediacy of the plot. Two books into a trilogy, the reader should have more of an idea about why the bad guy is bad. There is more innuendo about what is happening to the world than actual understanding. Yes, the characters have developed, the plot is still weak.

I’m far enough in that I will read the conclusion Harpist in the Wind, but the resolution to this series needs to reveal much more than it has until now.

5.5 stars out of 10

The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master Trilogy: Book 1) by Patricia McKillip

I was on the hunt for new books to read recently – as opposed to just reading more of some of my favorite authors works. Along the way, I came across the Riddle-Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip. This is one of those fantasy series that has been around for a while that I would see in the random library’s fantasy section. I have never taken the time to pick it up though. After reading several reviews announcing this as the best fantasy series that particular person had ever read, I thought it was time to give it a shot.

The story follows Morgon of Hed as he gets swept up into a quest to discover his destiny and save the world. Morgon, however, does not want the mantle of hero thrust upon him and continually tries to deny his fate. This is harder than it seems as he time and time again gets turned toward the mountain of the High One. He is faithfully accompanied by Deth, the High One’s harpist, who has a mysterious agenda of his own.

I have lived for over a thousand years and can recognize the smell of Doom.” –Deth

Initially, the quest has a natural draw to the reader as the intrigue of riddles make one long for answers. Unfortunately, right as the tale picks up steam, it gets sidetracked into some worldbuilding, that while important, becomes a little ponderous (like this sentence). Dreams are jumped in and out of several times throughout the book without warning. While this adds to the mystery and riddles, it can feel overplayed. However, once it breaks though this inertia, Morgon’s story moves with a rhythm that keeps the reader committed to the journey. Then the story ends. Done.

There is an ending to the book, and it has importance, but it feels like the author said, “OK, book two now.” I love book series of all lengths, yet I prefer it when the individual books have self-contained stories. I’ll have a better sense when I finish the whole trilogy (yes, I’ll finish it), but my impression is that the trilogy is really one story that got divided into three parts. I know that’s a minor point, but it’s good to know before you get into a series.

Riddles, shape changers, destiny and doom. This story checks many boxes in the fantasy want-list. A steady, if not always perfect, intro into what promises to be an intriguing tale. Stay tuned for the review of the continuation Heir of Sea and Fire.

4.5 stars out of 10