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The Bards of Bone Plain

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  1,954 Ratings  ·  267 Reviews
The latest "rich, resonant" ("Publishers Weekly") fantasy from the World Fantasy Award-winning author of "The Bell at Sealey Head."

Eager to graduate from the school on the hill, Phelan Cle chose Bone Plain for his final paper because he thought it would be an easy topic. Immortalized by poets and debated by scholars, it was commonly accepted-even at a school steeped in bar
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 7th 2010 by Ace Books (first published October 25th 2010)
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Patricia McKillip generally writes dreamy, lyrical fairy-tale-like fantasies, and her books have always been a mixed bag for me. I adored The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, The Changeling Sea and Alphabet of Thorn. Despite several tries, I've never been able to make it through the entire Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy trilogy. I also DNF'd The Bell at Sealey Head. I tried twice and could not at all get into The Sorceress and the Cygnet.

But despite my very mixed reactions to her books, I keep goi
May 09, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: music majors
Shelves: fantasy
Patricia, I'm going to have to put my foot down: I know you looove the idea of harpers/bards/minstrels, but enough already. One author can only write so many stories about bards before it becomes a little embarrassing. And repetitive. Hey, I still enjoyed your book, but I did skip all those long passages about harp-playing and heartstrings and natural imagery. Sorry. On the bright side, that made the sub-narrative about Nairn go a lot faster, which was good because I liked the main plot line in ...more
May 14, 2015 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I love McKillip’s work, now that I’ve got into it; I actually found it a bit difficult to pick which of her books to read last night, and ultimately just went with Lynn‘s recommendation. It took me a little while to get the hang of how this world works: there’s cars and trams, but also ancient magic, a bit closer to the surface than it is for us. It’s nice to have a fantasy setting where there’s industry, where there are essentially grad students (trainee bards) and archaeologists (the princess ...more
Kat  Hooper
Jan 06, 2011 Kat Hooper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Patricia McKillip is a must-read author for any true lover of fantasy literature. With a voice all her own, she imbues her work — both the story and the style — with beauty, magic, and wonder. Her latest novel, The Bards of Bone Plain, is just as enchanting as I was expecting it to be. I listened to Audible Frontiers’ version read by Marc Vietor and Charlotte Parry — a nice combination.

Scholar Phelan Cle is nearly finished studying to be a bard and he’s re
Nov 07, 2010 Sophia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, own, 2010
(ARC borrowed from my husband's to-review pile.) This is the third McKillip book I've read this year that made sense more than 75% of the time! (I jest, because I love her books, but it does get irritating when they wander off into abstraction and don't actually resolve the *plot*). The structure worked well, flipping back and forth each chapter between a handful of "modern" characters and the story of the fabled bard Nairn, whose chapters are headed first by an excerpt from a scholarly paper an ...more
Moonlight Reader
DNF @ 20%. The audio is very slow moving. I may try this one again in print at some point.
Feb 27, 2011 Estara rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: To people desperately longing for another taste of Riddle Master of Hed
Shelves: ebook, read-in-2011
When I read the description this sounded to me as if Patricia McKillip had taken bits of the ideas and tropes of Riddle-Master of Hed and explored them in a slightly different fashion. Since I particularly adore that trilogy (or omnibus, depending on when you've discovered it), that intrigued me enough to buy it.

I'm happy to say that this is - to me - exactly what it is. Now, this is a 250 pages book on my ebook reader at 12pt font size, Riddle-Master is a trilogy - of course certain pieces are
Jun 01, 2011 Wealhtheow rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
In the nation of Beldan, the princess prefers archaeology to balls, and the roads are traversed by steam-powered horseless carriages. After the princess digs up a strange coin, her friend Phelan begins finding other clues that the riddles and songs he's spent his life memorizing might be magical...and that the metaphorical immortal bard Nairn might be real after all. While Phelan searches through dusty records, a new court bard challenges Beldan's bard. Interspersed with all of this are Nairn's ...more
Feb 06, 2011 Desclian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very fascinating story about the foundations of music and poetry by a story-teller who has a deep sense of the reaches to which art can take its artist. McKillip mixes her own imagery with that of Irish and Welsh legends, particularly the cauldron as the source of poetic inspiration and the dark tower (from that of Cu Roi?). McKillip has a good command of both the greyness and the color of music and poetry and is frequently able to exhibit this in the written word. Unfortunately, the book itse ...more
Apr 21, 2011 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Well, it's Patricia McKillip, so I have to give it 4 stars because basically she can do no wrong in my eyes since I read The Riddle Master of Hed some thirty years ago. Oddly though, this book felt a little like a re-run, as it contains much about the power of music, and mysterious harpers, and very old ruins. Her lyrical style is one that I eat up with a spoon, so no matter what, I loved each page for the beautifully-constructed sentences that it contained. Okay, I'll just open a random page an ...more
Lynne Cantwell
Feb 25, 2012 Lynne Cantwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I've got a new favorite Patricia McKillip novel in *The Bards of Bone Plain* -- and maybe even a favorite new novel, period.

The novel starts with a present-day story in the kingdom of Belden. Phelen Cle, a student at the bardic academy in Caerau, is casting about for a subject for his final paper. He settles on the overworked topic of the Bone Plain, thinking it will be easy. Phelan's father, Jonah, is a wealthy drunk who finances archaeological digs. One of his diggers happens to be Princess Be
Jun 10, 2014 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think my brain was in the right place when I started this book. I had such a hard time getting into it, I was bored and it was putting me to sleep (literally, I'd fall asleep after only a few pages).

But picking it up again a few days ago, determined to finish, I realized it was actually a very good book. Once I got to the halfway point I was much more interested and felt more connected to it. It was still a bit abstract, I don't really understand what happened to Nairn in the tower, but
Jan 04, 2011 Keri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The sense of completion that I get when I finish a McKillip novel is unrivaled by any other author. I’ve said it before, but this woman’s prose is magic. There doesn’t need to be a strong plot for me to enjoy it (though it helps that her books do have one!); there just needs to be these musical words creating a symphony on the pages.

The Bards of Bone Plain is a story told in two different sections: one following the life of Nairn, the Unforgivable and one following the lives of Phelan Cle, son
Kathy Davie
Jan 07, 2011 Kathy Davie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A standalone fantasy that was nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 2011.

My Take
I would read Patricia McKillip if only to enjoy the poetic lyricism of her writing. She so effortlessly brushes in the atmosphere and thoughts of the scenery and her characters that one can't help but be enchanted with her words. And, eventually, her words make sense. I'm not denying that she can be rather confusing to start. Just enjoy the beauty of her words and you are soon engrossed a
Nov 08, 2011 Shaina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I read this book almost a year ago, and the plot made almost no impact on me. In a vaguely steam-punk fantasy kingdom bards can do...magic? Maybe? Except that the knack has been lost through the ages and now all that's left is myth, history, and archeology? There's a mystery to be solved and a conflict developing, but figuring that out through the clouds of narration is a bit of a task.

The problem is that Mckillip is style over clarity and...heart, I guess. Her characters are all beautifully des
Jun 07, 2010 Hallie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
14 days to go...

I seemed to take forever to finish this, but it was Christmas frenzy rather than lack of enjoyment. Mostly.

This is typical McKillip in gorgeous prose, stunning magic, and unusually, a wonderful interweaving of past and present. (I also loved that the book's present was much more modern than her usual fantasy setting.) I loved the way the characters in the present were fascinated by the characters of the past, and how the stories of present and past came closer and closer and eve
Feb 17, 2016 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the premise of this book, and the characters are great. It wasn't my favorite of McKillip's that I've read, I think because there were too many characters and their endings, in some cases, seemed rushed or contrived. I'm not sure I buy the love story that appears in the last 25 pages for instance. But the writing is amazing and the scenes created are astounding.
Ranting Dragon
Mar 14, 2011 Ranting Dragon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caleigh

The Bards of Bone Plain by established author Patricia A. McKillip is a Celtic-inspired standalone novel. Phelan is an apathetic graduate student at a school for bards; forced into the profession by his unmusical father, Phelan just wants to find an easy topic for his final thesis and finish school forever. But when a foreign bard arrives in court with wild music that entrances everyone around him, Phelan becomes unwittingly involved in a dangerous and leg
Jan 13, 2011 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bard is more than he or she first appears. Certainly the beautiful music, impressive memory, and courtly manners are part of the trade. But, there is magic in music...and in words, even the everyday variety.

THE BARDS OF BONE PLAIN is Patricia A. McKillip's latest creation. You may recognize her name for her award winning THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD or her Riddler-Master triology, among others. Her stories are subtle, beautiful, and full of magic. But the real magic in BARD is McKillip's prose
Kelley Ceccato
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2012 Metaphorosis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2012-rev
Patricia McKillip almost always tells the same story - a talented, bemused character is mystified by something that may or may not be magic, and tries to understand its heart. Even the fabulous Riddle-Master of Had is a variant on this. When she strays a bit (Moon-Flash, Cygnet), she's been less successful. And I keep buying the books because even if the story is similar, she writes it remarkably well. With very few exceptions, I've loved everything of hers I've read, which is quite a bit.

The Ba
Esther Bernstein

I love Patricia McKillip's style. There's something so magical about it, a way of pulling you into this alternate world and immersing you so completely in it. She writes sort of matter-of-factly, about preposterous ideas, about things which even the people who inhabit these imaginary lands find strange and unbelievable.

McKillip's books are more about character than plot, and I think that's very evident in The Bards of Bone Plain. It was very easy to follow
Patricia McKillip is one of those authors I sort of don't know how to explain to people. I read her masterpiece - The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy - as a kid (actually, my dad read them out loud to me first), and everything else she's written (and there's a lot) is wildly different and wildly the same at the same time, and doesn't measure up but isn't exactly trying to, and it's all very confusing and I don't really know how I feel about her.

Well, yes I do - I'm drawn. I'm drawn to her work. When
Douglas Cootey
Dec 08, 2010 Douglas Cootey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Over time, I grew used to the rhythm of the story switching between times until they became one narrative. I found the mystery gripping, and the setting enchanting. Though I predicted the identity of certain characters very early on, it was a good read.

There was much that I liked. I enjoyed the steam powered industrial society melded with high fantasy. I enjoyed the way magic was used through the runes of common words, unlocked with music. I especially enjoyed McKillip's writing skill. However,
Dec 13, 2010 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, own-it, 2011
The Bards of Bone Plain is just so beautiful. McKillip's writing is always so lyrical and poetic, and this one is no exception. I've read many of her novels, and Bards falls in with my favorites. I'm not going to do a plot overview because that is already there in the description of the book.

First off, like previous novels, there are several main characters, but I felt that all of them were clear and had something to add to the story. The novels switched between two different times, but the tran
Suzanne Vincent
Feb 06, 2012 Suzanne Vincent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a music lover and a McKillip lover I was excited to find and read this recent treasure.

*potential spoilers*

It was lovely and richly textured as always, but, along with another recent book, The Bell at Sealy Head, Bards seems to show that somewhere along the line these last few years, McKillip has either gone in a different direction or lost the ability to concentrate on a main character. It's odd. This book's main character is a person out of history, a story within the story for most of the
Jan 03, 2014 Hanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
Last year I participated in a book swap. A friend sent me The Book of Atrix Wolfe and I liked it very much, so I thought I'd probably read more of hers later. Then the same friend loaned me the Song for the Basilisk, and I was completely sold. I love the way McKillip writes: at the same time it's both earthy and ethereal - and always so elegant it's a genuine aesthetic pleasure to read. There's a good and well-built plot, no dragging or unnecessary complications, and there's real feel of danger ...more
Even though this takes a lot of themes and techniques used in other McKillip novels* it feels most, to me, like one I don't think it has that much in common with, The Bell at Seeley Head. They feel sort of like two novels from the same universe, which I don't often think about McKillip's books. I really liked it - the characters felt new, even if the ideas didn't - and found it very engaging.

Also sort of unusual was that, although I typically have a firm grasp on the "why" and a slightly more te
Apr 06, 2011 meeners rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
a book about the power (literally) of poetry! how could i not like it. objectively i suppose it'll feel like a retread for fans long familiar with her work. but you know, familiar mckillip is still awesome mckillip, so...4 stars!

at any rate mckillip is always worth it for the gorgeous prose.
...the harper only smiled, and played a note that melted Zoe's heart, kindled it to flame, and then to poetry.

bonus quote for the grad student in us all:
Monoliths of books and manuscripts rose around him. A
Jan 02, 2011 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: high-fantasy
You know how some books are just comfort books -- you turn to a specific book or author because you know just what to expect, and it's just what you need at certain times? McKillip is like that for me. I know, no matter what her novel is actually about, that I'm going to be caught up in this magical world with incredibly rich prose that reads like poetry -- and that's what I love most about her books. This one didn't let me down, although it was quite reminiscent of her Riddlemaster trilogy, bei ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: The Bards of Bone Plain 1 2 Aug 04, 2012 12:49PM  
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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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“He exuded ambiguities she decided, that was his fascination.
His mouth spoke; his eyes said something other: his smile belied everything....
He played with the language of the Circle of Days like a child with an arsenal of twigs....
His music said otherwise it seemed to echo through time out of a past as old as the stones on the hill. He lied with every note he played.
Or in his music he finally told the truth.”
“...No song, no peace, no poetry, no end of days, and no forgetting.” 4 likes
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