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Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy (Riddle-Master #1-3)

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  7,325 ratings  ·  342 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 Trade (first published January 1st 1976)
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A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinJ.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set by J.R.R. TolkienThe Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisThe Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
The Best Epic Fantasy
77th out of 2,299 books — 15,874 voters
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Best Fantasy Series, Trilogies, and Duologies
73rd out of 1,705 books — 7,130 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kat  Hooper
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 4 of 5 stars
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 5 of 5 stars
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 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Jun 08, 2007 Chieze rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fantasy fans who liked the songs of Tolkien
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
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
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
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
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
Dec 27, 2010 Christian rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
Maureen E
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
Beth A.
I really, really wanted to love this book. The author was highly recommended, I loved Alphabet of Thorn, and it sounded like it had a cool premise. But the pace was so slow, I didn’t have a lot of time to read, and when I tried to sneak a little reading in before bed I would fall asleep within a few pages. So this Trilogy, which really reads more like a really long book, felt like it took forever to read. It did have some cool ideas, and some interesting plot developments in the last about 100 p ...more
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
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
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
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,
Glenn Hopper
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
Mti Librarian
I received a copy of this book as a Christmas gift in 1999 and, I'll be honest, didn't like it right away. I had several false starts and trouble getting through the first chapter, but once I got to about page 30 I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I was also a bit put off by McKillip's introduction. She almost seems to come down hard on the young idealistic author that she used to be and not give the book enough credit. She says that she was inspired by the Lord of the Rings trilogy and want ...more
"The world ... is not a safe place for harpists."
I was well into the second section of the book before I realized that these were three separate books combined into one. I liked having them all together in one place because the story needs all the parts to be complete. This is a rich fantasy world, and McKillip fleshes out the story and magic with skill, even though at times the language seems a bit murky and sluggish. I like our double protagonists, Morgon of Hed and Raederle. I also like our
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is such a dense trilogy, with so many layers that hide beneath the quest narrative surface. I found so much to wonder and marvel at, such as Morgon turning into a tree or the majestic purple eyed vesta. I know that I will read this again, there are so many subtle links that I am sure I did not see them all.

Mckillip's writing is superb and she is a master of the genre. I cannot wait to read more of her work and to re-read this classic of fantasy.

I recommend this to anyone who loves quest d
Leon Aldrich
You can ignore all the low star reviews on this trilogy. If you look at the reading habits of those reviewers, you'll discover several common elements to their opinion:

1) They don't read much.
2) They don't read much adult fantasy.
3) They believe all fantasy after Lord of the Rings is plagiarized.
4) They believe Harry Potter could have done a better job destroying the One Ring, solo, walking uphill both ways, in the snow, surrounded by orcs...

I love people's opinions. But read a few hundred books
Teresa Carrigan
Classic fantasy that I have reread many times.
Jonathan Rimorin
I read this trilogy every few years or so, and find myself still amazed at McKillip's wit and imagination. The trilogy is about a young farmer named Morgon of Hed, the landmaster of a quiet, nondescript island named Hed; "landmastery" is a hereditary talent, given to the land's ruler, wherein that ruler knows (and, in a very common sense, is) every inch and stone and plant and animal on his or her land. Morgon attends a university named Caithnard, where students and teachers study ancient storie ...more
It's hard to know where to begin with this one. The world is a place where rulers have something called the "land-rule," which seems like a kind of psychic power but is more like a bone-deep knowledge of their land and the living things on it. Morgon, the main character of the first book, holds the land-rule of Hed, a quiet and peaceful island where farmers farm and most of the ruling he does involves helping to fix people's roofs. As you might expect, the book starts off a little slow. But it q ...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)
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master, #1) Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2) Winter Rose (Winter Rose, #1) 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.” 3 likes
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