I read this some years ago so the story line isn't fresh in my mind. However, the book made a huge impression on me. As with all of McKillip's books,...moreI read this some years ago so the story line isn't fresh in my mind. However, the book made a huge impression on me. As with all of McKillip's books, it is full of enchantment, mystery and beautiful language. The story is about struggling for perception and understanding, it's about language and finding a voice. It's also about the destructiveness of war (intentional and unintentional). There are two stories going on, that of a young scholar prince and that of a mystical young lady yanked away from her family. The young man wears thick glasses. The young lady is mute and works as a skullery girl in a huge castle kitchen. McKillip's descriptions of the food being prepared are full of symbolism. These descriptions are sometimes overelaborate and drag on. It is one of only two flaws in the book, the second being an ending that feels contrived. McKillip's books are never about action, they're about unraveling mysteries and it's true here times two.
After reading this, I remember recommending it to a friend who teaches college composition as a book full of potential points of discussion. However, this friend was not a fantasy reader and probably had a hard time believing a fantasy would be intellectually stimulating. However, had I been teaching at that time, I would have jumped right in with it. I kept this book on my shelf because I expect to reread it one day.(less)
I was surprised by this book. I suppose its thinness and it's being billed as young adult made me lower my expectations a bit. But I'm on a mission to...moreI was surprised by this book. I suppose its thinness and it's being billed as young adult made me lower my expectations a bit. But I'm on a mission to read all of McKillip's work, so I bought it this spring. This is a book of multiple troubled romances, including the romance of the sea. And this the first book of McKillips I've read in which I think she does romance well. As is common in McKillip's books (and fantasy in general), the young woman at the center of the book has magical power without realizing it. She ends up in the middle of an intersection of other powers. A powerful young mage arrives to solve what others see as the most obvious problem and ends up being the only one that sees all of the problems. I liked how his problem-solving involved a lot of guesswork. This strikes me as close to how problems, especially those on the edge of understanding, are actually solved. I also found his attempts to hint at his affection for the main character while she was awash in emotions for someone else quite charming. And that's how I would characterize the book overall: charming. Even the greed that grips the town seems more amusing than tragic. I'm sure I'll read it again some time when I feel like the world has lost its romance and I aim to put a smile.(less)
This was a fascinating read and a fairly fast one for a McKillip book. I read it a couple of years ago, so the plot isn't perfectly clear in my mind....moreThis was a fascinating read and a fairly fast one for a McKillip book. I read it a couple of years ago, so the plot isn't perfectly clear in my mind. This book has the most engaging set of characters of any of McKillip's stories that I've read. Oddly, the one I most enjoyed was the randomly villainous chicken witch who inhabits the forest of Serre. There's also a wonderful old wizard, who remains remote yet engaged via magic. This book doesn't have the depth or complexity of her The Book of Atrix Wolf, but it has more action than most of her books. The chicken witch and the phoenix are wonderful quirky problems to be solved. I can't claim to completely understand how the two intersect at the end, but overall an enchanting read.(less)