H.'s Reviews > The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
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Nov 08, 2009

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bookshelves: fiction-sf, fiction-ya
Read in June, 2006

One of the pleasures of young adult fantasy literature is that often the best of it will a subtle, insightful, and very much approachable exploration of life's themes and humanity through whimsical and alluring metaphor. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld does not quite accomplish this, but the rhythmic pace and language McKillip chooses is as much to blame for this as to credit for a final product that feels like a modern legend of yore. If one were to translate a minstrel's tale into common speech this could be what it would sound like. And there is a desirable, very pleasurable effect in that which allows a smooth read from cover to cover.

That smoothness sometimes becomes an enemy of the storytelling, however. When McKillip sculpts her tale to reveal some truly aching insight into human nature the effect is dulled around the edges by constant distance from the characters. With a character often referred to as "Ice Lady" as the protagonist whose journey it is to find her humanity, it makes sense that sometimes the empathy between her and reader may be vague. But when the reader seeks out the comfort of those supporting characters whose gradual accomplishment is to help her find it, they are as those of the legend McKillip's style echoes: far away.

From this far away place, that style does manage to bring to fancy the forgotten beasts of the title. The mythology of the story is modestly enchanting with a quiet individuality. The world McKillip creates is alive and a pretty place to be for 343 large print pages.

One final side note: I was a bit disturbed by how the heroine is constantly described as "beautiful": "slender," "thin," and always "forgetting to eat." I've never minded an attractive protagonist but, after the eighth mention of her starved allure, I lost my appetite.
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