Mark Newton's Reviews > The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
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Jul 09, 2010

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Read from May 27 to June 10, 2010

I’m slowly working my way through many of the Fantasy Masterworks range, and next up was The Forgotten Beasts Of Eld, by Patricia A. McKillip.

Sybel is a woman cut off from the world of Eldwold, and lives in a woodland glade in the mountains, more or less in isolation. But she doesn’t quite live alone: she can communicate telepathically with animals, and has the ability to reach out to their souls. Though it sounds a little twee, I was utterly charmed at this point – it was very well rendered and evocative. A man called Coren, arrives at her cottage and leaves her with a baby, which she is to look after – Tamlorn, the son of a king, and of a queen who has died. If not loved then the child will be found and killed.

A decade or so later, Coren returns for Tamlorn, and Sybel is more than reluctant to hand him over, since she is convinced that he’ll be used as a political weapon. But she gives him up eventually. Numerous chaps arrive at her door, the king, and also Coren, who are both so wrapped up in her beauty, and we’re generally led to believe all men are incredibly stupid and horrible (and throughout the novel, this is almost to the point of misandry). I reflected on this point quite a bit; then I realised women had been so badly treated by male writers for decades – and still do – so this is probably what it feels like. If that was McKillip’s point, which I’m inclined to think it was, then touché, it was bang on the money.

It kind of fell apart a bit at the end, but all in all, it’s a smart, charming rural fantasy.

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06/03/2010 page 70

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