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Riddle-Master (Riddle-Master #1-3)

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  8,749 Ratings  ·  417 Reviews
For over twenty years, Patricia A. McKillip has captured the hearts and imaginations of thousands of readers. And although her renowned Riddle-Master trilogy--The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind--has been long out of print, it is considered her most enduring and beloved work. Now it is collected in one volume for the first time--the epic ...more
Paperback, 578 pages
Published March 1999 by Ace (first published 1976)
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Apr 11, 2015 Bookwraiths rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

A long time ago in a decade far, far away . . .

I was a teenager! Not only that, I was a fairly arrogant one, who believed that he knew everything, had seen everything worth seeing, done everything worth doing, and had read every fantasy series that mattered.

When admitting that, I realize how immensely naive and prideful it all sounds – especially that last bit. However, at the time, I felt my observation about fantasy were completely justified. I mean,
Kat  Hooper
Mar 31, 2009 Kat Hooper rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

There are some fantasy epics that all literature professors, and most normal people, would consider essential reading for any well-educated person -- J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Lewis Carroll, etc. So, yeah, I read those a long time ago. But beyond that, there's not much fantasy literature that's essential reading. So, for a long time, I didn't read any. In my drive to be educated, I stuck to the classics (which are classic because they're great literature,
Jul 15, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Disenchanted Tolkien-esque Writers
I chose this book for one reason ... on the back cover, there was a review which read: "Patricia McKillip has done something extraordinary, to write a trilogy comparable to Tolkien." I was sold. Obviously as a writer myself, who is an heir to that honor-ridden, legacy-laced, return-of-the-king obsessed writing culture, I needed to know what a book looked like that COULD be compared to Tolkien ... if for no other reason. What I found floored me.

Patricia McKillip is a masterful writer - not so pro
May 09, 2007 erin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: picky fantasy readers
"Weak" story??? "Shallow world-building and characters"????? What on earth?! I would say exactly the opposite. Compared to most of the shallow, sloppy fantasies that are being cranked out these days, this trilogy is absolutely singular in terms of story, world-building, and character development. This is one I come back to--it never disappoints. It was written in the 70s, and while McKillip admits being influenced by Tolkien, she succeeds in creating a unique, complex, and meticulously layered w ...more
Dec 22, 2008 Hayley rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of complex characters; Tolkien fans; Poets or musicians; Nature lovers
The trilogy gets more stars than the main character has on his face.

I was generous, even though it has its flaws. Here is why:

The way McKillip's "magic" system works is so utterly unique that I dare not compare it to anything. Magic is the innate qualities of a thing. You understand the thing completely and you are magically connected to it, able to be it or to use it against others. People are fooled by illusions that are simply the augmentation of a thing's natural qualities, which the tricks
Jan 08, 2013 Ben rated it it was ok
I can't recommend this book.

Much is made of the dreamlike quality of McKillip's prose, but I found that this detracted from what could have otherwise been a memorable and different fantasy setting. A large number of intriguing plot points are introduced and then never referred to again, swept away in the preoccupation with the characterless protagonist. As the reader you never gain any appreciation of his (or anyone's) motivation, as the plot moves from one travelogue to another. Here are a few
Mar 08, 2008 Erfan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with other books I will slowly add here, this is one I think the world of, particularly this one and for its love story which moved me to the depths but I will mislead by that comment - the love between two people I refer to is not romantic in the conventional sense. There is one of those, done and done well, with a wonderful female character who is strong and practical in her own right. I should not even have to say that, should I?!
But this other relationship takes the whole trilogy to relat
1. These three novels were really formative for me - I read them, I think, when I was ten (I got this collection for my eleventh birthday, and I'd already read them all at least once).

2. There's a betrayal at the end of the first novel that ruined me for all other fictional betrayals. Caesar? Ned Stark? #KanyeShrug. Probably real life betrayals, too. Whatever happens to me in the future, it won't be as bad as what happened to ten-year-old me at the end of The Riddle-Master of Hed (well, maybe th
Aug 23, 2010 Jessica rated it it was amazing
I grabbed a copy of this book to read on a plane to Ireland. The plane landed when I had finished all but one chapter, and I ran to the baggage claim to sit down and finish it.

The story was compelling, the writing was exquisite, and McKillip manages the nearly impossible -- in writing about emotions and experiences that are impossible to put into words, she suggests them so well that the reader is able to feel them. It made me choke up in a number of places, even cry in a few, and there are imag
Jun 08, 2007 Chieze rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy fans who liked the songs of Tolkien
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
When I picked up this book, the only fantasy I had read for a long time were of the large, serial variety (Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin). I gotta say, this was quite the breath of fresh air.

The characters are all likable, the plot and pacing were perfect, and even though this is only one book (it's a trilogy, but the size of it is about the size of one volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, so I think of it as one book), the world is very immersive. The sense of urgency as the hero of the story
Nov 08, 2009 Katie rated it it was amazing
Common McKillip themes exemplified by this trilogy:

1) There is nothing which cannot be faced, endured, known, understood.
2) Art conquers all misfortunes.
3) The mind is the most powerful weapon.
4) He who plays God had better be prepared to be God, especially when God turns up and wants his housekeys back.
5) Mess with teenage girls and the shit will be on.
6) Stand by your man. Even if it means turning pirate to hunt the dead bastard down.
Aug 25, 2010 Danny rated it it was ok
While McKillip's prosaic writing is masterful, it also makes the book very difficult to read. I found myself screaming, "just get on with it!". While the most interesting characters were never fully developed, the title character was overdeveloped and unlikeable. I grew weary of the constant whining over his destiny, remorse for things he did, or expostulating on everything from life mysteries to romantic endeavors. She wanted to create a Tolkein-like world, but ended up with only the dismal sha ...more
Ана Хелс
Jul 26, 2014 Ана Хелс rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have
Няма да изненадам никого, твърдейки че има огромно количество автори , които абсолютно незаслужено остават непреведени на нашия любим език, въпреки световната им слава, хилядите фенове и не на последно място – неоспоримите им качества , насмитащи безапелационно едно половината шитавки нещица, шестващи тъжновато – успешно през книжарниците ни. И съм горда, че попаднах на една такава поредица, митпоетика на висше ниво, с музика в думите, образи в буквите и видими послания зад страниците текст. С д ...more
Dec 27, 2010 Christian rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
I bought and read this book on the recommendation of several family members who had read the original books when they were first published (and when they were much younger readers).

Compared with the other fantasy novels that I've read, this is among my least favorite for the following reasons:
Lack of background on the world
Lack of depth to the characters
Lack of conflict and plot
Poor dialog & formatting

The story was mildly interesting, but has been done several times before and at this po
Aug 18, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I started reading this book and found myself a little bored or seeing ways I thought it could have written it better. But then suddenly, I found myself swept up by the mastery of the simplicity and I was in love with the world and the characters and the plots. The beauty is in the simplicity. The sparseness that still somehow captivates you. What this book does that so many modern books fail to do is that it gives you almost everything. It gives you enough and th ...more
Glenn Hopper
Aug 01, 2010 Glenn Hopper rated it it was amazing
This is my all time favorite series. Even though it is older than most it just brings me to tears every time I read it. The hero is so likable, so everyman, that he is easy to identify with, and Raderle, his love interest is so strong, so independent, the entire second book centers on her! This is over thirty-four years ago! The trilogy makes use of a number of themes from Celtic mythology.The novels take place in a fantasy world divided into a number of countries. Each ruler has a mystical awar ...more
Sep 22, 2014 Tish rated it really liked it
First, I recommend that you read this compilation that contains all three books of the trilogy as you need to read them all and you need to read them all at once. Plus, since I read it that way, it was like reading one longer book (which I prefer) to three shorter books.

Anyway, I really enjoyed these books. The writing is lovely, almost poetic, which, for me, is both good and bad. Good, because of course beautiful writing is good, but bad because sometimes my admiration of a particular passage w
May 12, 2011 Peter rated it it was ok
I'm having a hard time getting into this book. The quotes on the cover not withstanding, someone should have edited these books (it's a compilation of 3 novels). I had a hard time following the dialogue in places because she doesn't always tell you whose talking and the characters behave in inexplicable ways. If it doesn't get any better soon, it'll be for sale on Amazon!
Finally finished the book which is a reprint of McKillip's first fantasy books. It was hard to read more than 2 pages at a t
It pains me to give a fantasy book zero-stars, because fantasy is one of my favourite genres and I usually find something to like in a fantasy book even if I didn't think it was that great.

But I can't remember liking anything about The Riddle-Master. I found the writing obscure and difficult to get into, none of the characters were especially appealing and it seemed to me the plot just dragged on and on without going anywhere exciting. I'd give more details but I read this awhile ago and my only
Sep 21, 2014 Charles rated it liked it
Stuff I Read - Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip Review

I will admit to being a bit at a loss of what to say about this series. On the one hand, I liked a lot about it, and liked the way it meandered about and came at a couple question in interesting ways. On the other hand, this book was a bit dense in places and I didn't really feel that it helped the narrative to circle back and back to certain things, and there were parts where I just wanted to know what was happenin
Federica Leva
Apr 28, 2014 Federica Leva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-e-sf
Rievocando un antico enigma della sua isola, Morgon, principe contadino di Hed, vince il fantasma di un antico nobile di An in una gara d'indovinelli, conquistando una preziosa corona e la mano dell'affascinante principessa Radaerle, di cui è già innamorato. Ma niente è avvenuto per caso, e nel reame custodito dal Supremo strane e terribili forze si stanno muovendo alla ricerca di rivelazioni che ancora Morgon ignora, ma che sente legate al mistero delle tre stelle che porta sulla fronte. Un via ...more
Dec 15, 2007 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
mckillip tells us right up front in her introduction that this trilogy is a)inspired by tolkein and b)neither her favorite nor her best writing. she's quite correct on both counts.

telling the tale of a backwater prince (a somewhat large fish in a tiny pond, not entirely unlike certain hobbits) discovering his true destiny and just how important he is to saving the land from an incomprehensible evil, the structure is rather tolkeinesque. sadly, the best and worst of that work is stashed in here,
Mike (the Paladin)
This is an omnibus edition containing all 3 novels in the series. I would rate the first book (The Riddle Master of Hed) a five (5) star book with the two following not quite up to its standard. This is a great series.
Mary Catelli
Among her earliest works. A classic of the genre, among the first works of Celtic fantasy. Telling a tale of a land where all the sovereigns have land-law -- a mystic link. And everyone knows that the High One is the master of all the land's land-law, and where riddles are bits of historic lore, with reasons appended.

Morgon of Hed, born with three mysterious stars on his forehead, is at home with his brother Eliard and sister Tristan awaiting the merchants. Tristan, describing what she wants, sa
Maureen E
Jan 13, 2010 Maureen E rated it really liked it
by Patricia McKillip

I linked to a full-sized cover for this one out of habit, but believe me, you don't want to click on it. It is terrible. TERRIBLE.

Which is a pity, because I really like this trilogy. It's McKillip's, for lack of a better term, 'questy' set. Lord of the Rings, Crown of Dalemark--hero sets out on adventure unwittingly, etc, etc. But McKillip works well with the conventions of her genre and ultimately I think that Riddle of Stars stands up as a representative of 'questy' fant
Chris Raiin
Mar 18, 2016 Chris Raiin rated it really liked it
So much to say...but I'll keep it simple. Patricia A. McKillip's prose is beautiful. She has a way of weaving images in and out of the plot, the result being a thick, comfy, lush tapestry of world-and-story. Aspiring fantasy writers should read this trilogy simply to study the beauty of language and its possibilities.

The overarching plot is engaging, but I hesitate to give the trilogy five stars because, well, the ending didn't really grab me. The big revelations--the moments of explanation, whe
Jan 12, 2009 Aimee rated it really liked it
It's like someone started with Lloyd Alexander's Prydain, expanded it, threw in a pinch of Cecilia Dart Thornton's - something - and then it echoes of Lord of the Rings and it reads for all the world like a Kinuko Craft painting!
It's told in a dreamlike, legend-like quality, as if the author is a bard spinning the whole, beautiful tale and not someone who expects you to live the story quite alongside the characters - except where it drops, fairly frequently, into detail of startling, beautiful r
Apr 13, 2014 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a nice adventure story filled with a lot of peace and sweetness in the characters' personalities and relationships. The romance was very clean. It would be a great book for a young adult.

For me, it was missing a bit of grit. Everyone was so trusting and cooperative. Even when the characters had some emotional outburst, everyone was understanding and forgiving. The villains were even made to seem sympathetic. At least the end of the story acknowledged how trusting the entire world was an
Kristine (fezabel)
I first read this series in grade school. I remember it as being some of the first fantasy I ever read and a favorite. I picked it up again this summer after reading some other Patricia McKillip stories. I wish I hadn't.

It just doesn't hold up over time. After reading J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Goodkind, George R.R. Martin, and many other great fantasy writers, the flaws are far too obvious to ignore. It feels like a bad attempt at a first novel by a naive teenager. There are words in here that do n
Roger Burk
May 05, 2016 Roger Burk rated it liked it
Shelves: other
Another damn fat thick square fantasy trilogy, with a map in the front and index of names in the back. A flurry of strange names in the opening chapters--it's hard to get oriented in this odd world. Lots of cryptic riddles, few answers that I can understand. Honestly, I found the book pretty obscure and aimless. There's a sort of Quest, but our hero crosses the land north to south and east to west without much sense of a definite purpose. Great monomachies come to no definite conclusion. The cha ...more
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Patricia Anne McKillip is an American author of fantasy and science fiction novels, distinguished by lyrical, delicate prose and careful attention to detail and characterization. She is a past winner of the World Fantasy Award and Locus Award, and she lives in Oregon. Most of her recent novels have cover paintings by Kinuko Y. Craft. She is married to David Lunde, a poet.

According to Fantasy Book
More about Patricia A. McKillip...

Other Books in the Series

Riddle-Master (3 books)
  • The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master, #1)
  • Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2)
  • Harpist in the Wind (Riddle-Master, #3)

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“I came back."
"Suppose you hadn't?"
"I came back! Why can't you understand, instead of thinking as though your brains are made of oak. Athol's son, with his hair and eyes and vision -"
"No!" Tristan said sharply. Eliard's fist, raised and knotted, halted in midair. Morgon dropped his face again against his knees. Eliard shut his eyes.
"Why do you think I'm so angry?" he whispered.
"I know."
"Do you? Even - even after six months I still expect to hear her voice unexpectedly, or see him coming out of the barn, or in from the fields at dusk. And you? How will I know, now, that when you leave Hed, you'll come back? You could have died in that tower for the sake of a stupid crown and left us watching for the ghost of you, too. Swear you'll never do anything like that again."
"I can't."
"You can."
Morgon raised his head, looked at Eliard. "How can I make one promise to you and another to myself? But I swear this: I will always come back."
"How can you -"
"I swear it.”
“Morgon of Hed met the High One's harpist one autumn day when the trade-ships docked at Tol for the season's exchange of goods. A small boy caught sight of the round-hulled ships with their billowing sails striped red and blue and green, picking their way among the tiny fishing boats in the distance, and ran up the coast from Tol to Akren, the house of Morgon, Prince of Hed. There he disrupted an argument, gave his message, and sat down at the long, nearly deserted tables to forage whatever was left of breakfast. The Prince of Hed, who was recovering slowly from the effects of loading two carts of beer for trading the evening before, ran a reddened eye over the tables and shouted for his sister.” 4 likes
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