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The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master #1)

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  7,573 ratings  ·  240 reviews
Long ago, the wizards had vanished from the world, and all knowledge was left hidden in riddles. Morgon, prince of the simple farmers of Hed, proved himself a master of such riddles when he staked his life to win a crown from the dead Lord of Aum. But now ancient, evil forces were threatening him. Shape changers began replacing friends until no man could be trusted. So Mor ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 12th 1980 by Del Rey / Ballantine (first published 1976)
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Fantasy without any fantastic. 'Riddles' without any riddles! More accurately, what here is described as riddle-figuring is actually history/mythology research. But I guess that 'The Primary-and-Secondary-Document Seeker of Hed' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Characters should be great by what they do. I don't want to be told how clever and destined-for-great-things a character is- I want to be shown it without the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, only a bit more than nothing occurs here
There's just something frustrating about this book.

It just doesn't quite seem to get where it's going.

The story starts out with this really run-of-the-mill prince. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it's not. He's ruler of this really simple, down-to-earth place called Hed and is just an incredibly unpretentious character. Despite being the prince, he ends up wrestling his brother in a mud puddle within just a handful of pages. It's hard to really get into the story at first, because although he
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
McKillip captured me with this book immediately because I just loved the hero. In the first few pages, she draws him so well & in such a novel way that just tickled me. (view spoiler) plus... No, I won't put that here, even under a spoiler tag. Let's just say there is a LOT more to him than meets the eye at first, just as there is to the story.

And there are riddles. I don't particula
Lovely language and delicate mythos but I just couldn't get over the riddles that weren't riddles. The wordplay was too much for me and although it is a slim book, it felt much longer because the main character kept dragging his heels and complaining through the whole book. It had a feeling a bit like Taran Wanderer (which I love) so I can see why people would love this but it wasn't for me, alas!
A very impressive novel. McKillip is both an impressive storyteller and author, showing her intricate skill in this the first part of the Riddlemaster Trilogy. Mysterious, at times chilling, and with fascinating characters, "The Riddlemaster of Hed" reminds me of Le Guin and, to some extent Tolkien, authors who I believe to be masters of fantasy literature. McKillip's descriptions and dialogue are very well constructed, pulling the reader (or at least me) in to read quickly yet also deeply. At t ...more
A lovely trilogy that somehow manages to balance an epic scope while being focused on just two people trying to figure out who they are. This first book is about Morgon, a farmer with a knack for answering riddles (a bit more like Zen koans) who was born with three stars on his head.

Yes, this is the "Chosen One of the Ancient Prophecy" trope that I hate so much. I think there are a number of reasons it works for me here. First, there isn't a concrete prophecy looming over each action. Morgon do
This is beautifully written, as all of Patricia McKillip's work is. However, something in the density of it makes it difficult -- not to read; I sped through it, in that sense, but to understand exactly what it going on and how we should feel about it. I've had that problem with one or two of McKillip's other books, so I think it's something about her style which may or may not be a problem for other people. I wouldn't actually start here, with McKillip: I first fell in love with The Changeling ...more
I love this trilogy far beyond reason, so I won't try to give a reasoned review. I will give a few words of advice, though. The first book is in no way a stand-alone story. The trilogy only makes sense if you read the entire trilogy... much more like a book of the Lord of the Rings than a Harry Potter book that can be enjoyed on its own terms apart from the rest of the series. Secondly, there is a major shift in viewpoint between the first & second books of the trilogy, so don't expect Morga ...more
AnHeC the Paperback Obliterator
Now, I should start with admitting I'm partial to this book. I've read it as a kid, it was a gift from my parents (whole 3 books). And I loved it. It had some wisdom in it, that I needed at the time. And a few of my favourite quotes hit me still today.

So, let's get on with review.

I liked the main character. I liked the fact, that he didn't necessarily seek glory. Didn't want to save the world, so to speak. An unwilling hero. A guy that loves peace and quite and books (^^) but life has other idea
Some books keep you up at night reading, dreaming, questioning. This book put me to sleep every time I opened it. I think the cause of my novel-induced narcolepsy was a combination of things.

First and most importantly, Morgon's stops along his journey were so unrelated and unconnected that I would just be getting used to the city and the character he was meeting when BAM! some random shape-changer, trader, or disappearing sailor would try to kill him in some not-so exciting way and we'd move on
Jan 23, 2008 Jeffrey rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of fantasy
I reread this book again to see how it holds up and it definitely is still one of the best fantasy novels (and part of one of the best fantasy trilogies out there. McKillip sets the stage for the trilogy with a spare style refreshing in this age of overblown epic fantasies. There is just the mystery of who is the Star bearer, why does he have enemies, what is his mission.

Morgan the hero is a the lord of Hed, a small island in the Land known for its peace. He is also the solver of riddles and cur
Jack Navarath
I've been on a kick lately, going back and reading the books I missed. I finished the Earthsea series, and then moved on to the Riddlemaster. Reading them back to back, I really like this book much better than earthsea. The first thing I loved about it, is that McKillip does a superb job at telling you the story, and advancing the plot, by simply telling the story - rather than getting bogged down in monotonous descriptions about the past, countryside, etc. It keeps a really good pace, and wow, ...more
Abigail Hartman
Aug 27, 2012 Abigail Hartman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Abigail by: Jennifer Freitag
Shelves: fantasy
Despite the covers, which make these books look no better than pulp fiction, the Riddle-Master trilogy is (thus far) very clever and written in lovely prose. Of course there are some cliches that are unavoidable when writing a high, quest-and-destiny fantasy, but McKillip writes in such a way that the cliches are of no consequence. What stands out is the originality: things like riddling and Great Shouts and land-rule and Morgon's tie to the land of Hed. This does have a cliff-hanger ending, tho ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
See my review of the omnibus volume. I stumbled over this book back in '77 or '78 and then had to wait till I could find the next volume. Very frustrating. A good series, I find the first volume to be the best of the 3 though I've read reviews of those who disagree.
This is one of the early female authors of SF/Fantasy (besides Anne McCaffrey) that I found that I could not put down. I thought this was just as good as the Wizard of Earthsea which was required reading.
This was a very good book that had me thinking for a while there that it was “merely” good. In Goodreads terms, I started off really liking this book and thinking it was going to be a four-star book, at least. From the middle on, though, it really slowed down, and Morgon’s denial of the bleeding obvious started to grate on my nerves. Near the end, I was thinking “Nope, this has dropped down to a three-star rating,” but then the twist at the end happened, and immediately renewed my flagging inter ...more
January 2015

Finally planning to read the rest of the trilogy, so re-read this so I could remember stuff! I still feel like I need to read more before I know what I think. There are things that don't entirely work for me in this book, like in a lot of ways, Morgan is so alone for most of it, and I do think he goes back and forth about his destiny too much. (And also I feel like I needed to be hit over the head more with his destiny and why it was so important for him to pursue it.) Buuut all of t
On the cover of this book, Morgon the Prince of Hed appears to be working out a particularly difficult riddle.
After reading the book, however, I surmised that he's actually just trying to make up his mind. "Do I pursue my quest or go back to being a pig farmer?" I could understand a little confusion and working-up of courage, but this guy completely changes his mind at least a half dozen times during the book. He's like a girl trying to decide which dress to put on and how to apply her make-up e
Terri (Reading By Starlight)
This is the first McKillip book I’ve read, and I’m hoping the style improves from here. The book starts out confusing and I kept checking to see if there was a prequel or I’d started with book 2 by mistake. McKillip throws you into the story and doesn’t really spend much time explaining the characters or their world. As you read, you figure out that Morgon is the Prince of Hed, a small, poor country of farmers. Morgon is a Riddle Master and he solved a riddle that had been unanswered for hundred ...more
Robert Beveridge
Patricia A. McKillip, The Riddle-Master of Hed (Ace, 1976)

McKillip's Riddle Master trilogy has attained something of legendary status over the years, and it seemed to me that, as a fantasy fan, it was something of a must-read. I did find it somewhat difficult to get into at first, but once I got into the rhythm of McKillip's writing and got the quirks of the world she was building down, it picked up just fine, and I got a glimmer of what it is about the series that garners such devotion in its f
This is one of those border books that not everyone has heard of but is actually probably my favorite book ever. I have read it and reread it probably a hundred times and will reread it for comfort up there with Pride and Prejudice and Unbearable Lightness of Being-- all books I could read over and over without getting sick of them. For anyone who would look at this and dismiss it as stupid fantasy writing they are missing the huge parable that dies not make sense until you read the last chapter ...more
It's confusing, boring and imho not very well written. The main protagonist is Gary Stu if I ever saw one - he is a prince, but from the country so small and simple that one of his biggest worries is a leaking roof of his pigherder.

He's handsome, exceptionally bright: he reached the top level of Mastery sooner than anyone, solves several ancient mysteries, has extraordinary talent for learning new things. The whole world revolves around him, characters appearing and dying just to kill him, or o
I probably last read this about twenty years ago (scary thought, I first read it about 33 years ago). It read like a travelogue, hitting every kingdom on the map in turn (although An only in flashback), and I believe the other two stories did the same. I was interested in seeing how the author parcels out the information that gradually builds to the revelations of the third book.
There is a mishmash of magic here, never explained, just magical--the prescience of An, the peace and friendliness of
Melissa McShane
So here's the weird thing I realized on this I-don't-know-how-many-times re-read. At heart, this is a story about a young farmer with a weird birthmark who's destined for greatness. And I never figured it out until now. Patricia McKillip loves words, loves how they shape a story, and while this kind of tale probably wasn't a cliche back in 1976, she didn't take the easy route. One of my favorite scenes is at the very beginning, where our hero Morgon is hungover and arguing with his brother, his ...more
The Riddle Master of Club Hed is a light but fun read by McKillip, a most talented writer. The book is the first in a series about a riddle-master travels throughout the kingdom. Wizards have vanished from the world and all knowledge is found in riddles if one can but understand them. A prince of the farmers of Hed, Morgan, is a master at understanding riddles. Betting his life on this talent, he hopes to win a crown from the deceased Lord of Aum. However, other forces threaten his efforts. His ...more
Jeffrey Hoover
Consumed as they came out thanks to the Future Fantasy bookstore in my hometown.
Jul 23, 2015 E.L. added it
Shelves: new-for-2015
Lovely. I struggle with McKillip, for much the same reason that I struggle with McKinley or other similar writers (and no, it's not that their names begin with the same prefix): the writing is beautiful, and it is thick and heavy and weighted down, and before long I get bogged in the writing and am mired with no idea of what is happening in the story and who the characters are.

However, I recently asked some McKillip fans on Twitter to recommend a good place to start for a quick, not-always-thoug
Duane Vore
Mar 24, 2015 Duane Vore rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This review is for the entire trilogy, but it doesn't matter which book one assigns it to, as they are are comparably great. There are two things that make a memorable book: a great plot and great characters. Many have one or the other, but the Riddle of Stars (also marketed as the Riddle-Master) trilogy has both, from the beginning of the first book to its startling climax.

I'm not sure what to say about the plot, other than that it fascinated me from page to page, and the climax, when we finall
Ryan Middlebrook
Mar 12, 2015 Ryan Middlebrook rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Teen fantasy readers
Recommended to Ryan by: Audible
Shelves: fantasy, novels, series
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 w ...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.

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Other Books in the Series

Riddle-Master (3 books)
  • Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2)
  • Harpist in the Wind (Riddle-Master, #3)
Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy (Riddle-Master, #1-3) The Forgotten Beasts of Eld Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2) Harpist in the Wind (Riddle-Master, #3) Winter Rose (Winter Rose, #1)

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“If you have no faith in yourself, then have faith in the things you call truth. You know what must be done. You may not have courage or trust or understanding or the will to do it, but you know what must be done. You can't turn back. There is now answer behind you. You fear what you cannot name. So look at it and find a name for it. Turn your face forward and learn. Do what must be done.
-Deth to Morgon, Prince of Hed-”
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