Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Riddle-Master (Riddle-Master, #1-3)” as Want to Read:
Riddle-Master (Riddle-Master, #1-3)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Riddle-Master #1-3)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  10,115 ratings  ·  534 reviews
For over twenty years, Patricia A. McKillip has captured the hearts and imaginations of thousands of readers. And although her renowned Riddle-Master trilogy--The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind--has been long out of print, it is considered her most enduring and beloved work. Now it is collected in one volume for the first time--the epic ...more
Paperback, 578 pages
Published March 1999 by Ace (first published 1976)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,115 ratings  ·  534 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Riddle-Master (Riddle-Master, #1-3)
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, own
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

A long time ago in a decade far, far away . . .

I was a teenager! Not only that, I was a fairly arrogant one, who believed that he knew everything, had seen everything worth seeing, done everything worth doing, and had read every fantasy series that mattered.

When admitting that, I realize how immensely naive and prideful it all sounds – especially that last bit. However, at the time, I felt my observation about fantasy were completely justified. I mean,
Kat  Hooper
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

There are some fantasy epics that all literature professors, and most normal people, would consider essential reading for any well-educated person -- J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Lewis Carroll, etc. So, yeah, I read those a long time ago. But beyond that, there's not much fantasy literature that's essential reading. So, for a long time, I didn't read any. In my drive to be educated, I stuck to the classics (which are classic because they're great literature,
Jul 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Disenchanted Tolkien-esque Writers
I chose this book for one reason ... on the back cover, there was a review which read: "Patricia McKillip has done something extraordinary, to write a trilogy comparable to Tolkien." I was sold. Obviously as a writer myself, who is an heir to that honor-ridden, legacy-laced, return-of-the-king obsessed writing culture, I needed to know what a book looked like that COULD be compared to Tolkien ... if for no other reason. What I found floored me.

Patricia McKillip is a masterful writer - not so pro
May 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: picky fantasy readers
"Weak" story??? "Shallow world-building and characters"????? What on earth?! I would say exactly the opposite. Compared to most of the shallow, sloppy fantasies that are being cranked out these days, this trilogy is absolutely singular in terms of story, world-building, and character development. This is one I come back to--it never disappoints. It was written in the 70s, and while McKillip admits being influenced by Tolkien, she succeeds in creating a unique, complex, and meticulously layered w ...more
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I went further, deeper into this trilogy, my notes grew fewer and sparser. Words were slipping away from me, just like the answers of those ultimate riddles evaded Morgon's mind. There are few words in the realm of the magic that binds everything into existence; and it is a wonder that the author kept finding words--unearthing them, weaving them out of the winds--to complete this story.

I will stop here, because there is something inside me, and I would like to feel it a while longer, rather t
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
I can't recommend this book.

Much is made of the dreamlike quality of McKillip's prose, but I found that this detracted from what could have otherwise been a memorable and different fantasy setting. A large number of intriguing plot points are introduced and then never referred to again, swept away in the preoccupation with the characterless protagonist. As the reader you never gain any appreciation of his (or anyone's) motivation, as the plot moves from one travelogue to another. Here are a few
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of complex characters; Tolkien fans; Poets or musicians; Nature lovers
The trilogy gets more stars than the main character has on his face.

I was generous, even though it has its flaws. Here is why:

The way McKillip's "magic" system works is so utterly unique that I dare not compare it to anything. Magic is the innate qualities of a thing. You understand the thing completely and you are magically connected to it, able to be it or to use it against others. People are fooled by illusions that are simply the augmentation of a thing's natural qualities, which the tricks
1. These three novels were really formative for me - I read them, I think, when I was ten (I got this collection for my eleventh birthday, and I'd already read them all at least once).

2. There's a betrayal at the end of the first novel that ruined me for all other fictional betrayals. Caesar? Ned Stark? #KanyeShrug. Probably real life betrayals, too. Whatever happens to me in the future, it won't be as bad as what happened to ten-year-old me at the end of The Riddle-Master of Hed (well, maybe th
Mar 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with other books I will slowly add here, this is one I think the world of, particularly this one and for its love story which moved me to the depths but I will mislead by that comment - the love between two people I refer to is not romantic in the conventional sense. There is one of those, done and done well, with a wonderful female character who is strong and practical in her own right. I should not even have to say that, should I?!
But this other relationship takes the whole trilogy to relat
Olivier Delaye
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good Fantasy, if somewhat a little predictable. The writing however is pure poetry. McKillip's mastery of the English language is downright breathtaking!
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I grabbed a copy of this book to read on a plane to Ireland. The plane landed when I had finished all but one chapter, and I ran to the baggage claim to sit down and finish it.

The story was compelling, the writing was exquisite, and McKillip manages the nearly impossible -- in writing about emotions and experiences that are impossible to put into words, she suggests them so well that the reader is able to feel them. It made me choke up in a number of places, even cry in a few, and there are imag
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sffmistressworks
I picked this one up as part of my reading project for this year. I'm really trying to read more books written by ladies pre-2000 in SFF. This definitely fit the bill, but unfortunately it didn't grip me anywhere near as much as I had hoped for...

This includes the third and final book in the trilogy which follows Morgon, Prince of Hed, and Raederle, his lady love (I've reviewed the first two individually from this one). In this volume we see both of them come together after much adventuring abo
Sep 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Common McKillip themes exemplified by this trilogy:

1) There is nothing which cannot be faced, endured, known, understood.
2) Art conquers all misfortunes.
3) The mind is the most powerful weapon.
4) He who plays God had better be prepared to be God, especially when God turns up and wants his housekeys back.
5) Mess with teenage girls and the shit will be on.
6) Stand by your man. Even if it means turning pirate to hunt the dead bastard down.
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
If you like the way Patricia A. McKillip writes, I think this will be good for you. I personally struggled with getting into this fantasy classic.

It came recommended for those that enjoy Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle. There are some superficial commonalities that make me understand why it was a recommendation but as Patricia A. McKillip notes in her Introduction, she was very much influenced by Lord of the Rings when she was writing this, and I got that way more than I did Earthsea.

Book 1,
Jun 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy fans who liked the songs of Tolkien
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
When I picked up this book, the only fantasy I had read for a long time were of the large, serial variety (Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin). I gotta say, this was quite the breath of fresh air.

The characters are all likable, the plot and pacing were perfect, and even though this is only one book (it's a trilogy, but the size of it is about the size of one volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, so I think of it as one book), the world is very immersive. The sense of urgency as the hero of the story
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Explicitly inspired by — but no slavish imitation of — The Lord of the Rings, Patricia McKillip’s trilogy is an epic fantasy that stands on its own merits rather than in comparison with Tolkien’s work. Yes, it starts with a very domestic scene before exploring from one end of a continent to the other, and, indeed, the main protagonist is reluctant to embark on his quest, but in reality the whole feel and mood of McKillip’s narrative is far removed from Tolkien’s, not least because it gives almos ...more
Dec 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
I bought and read this book on the recommendation of several family members who had read the original books when they were first published (and when they were much younger readers).

Compared with the other fantasy novels that I've read, this is among my least favorite for the following reasons:
Lack of background on the world
Lack of depth to the characters
Lack of conflict and plot
Poor dialog & formatting

The story was mildly interesting, but has been done several times before and at this point
So this is yer basic three-part magical-feudalism farmboy-leaves-home-and-finds-a-sword-and-a-destiny Tolkien-clone kind of a thing, with flat characters in a sometimes incoherent world but also a strong prose style and enough specific interest to earn it a place on the shelf with its samey siblings, and a richness that's hard to identify. It's pretty good.

What makes it fascinating is that it was written by a woman in the early-to-mid nineteen seventies. It predates Brooks and (by decades) Eddin
Aug 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
While McKillip's prosaic writing is masterful, it also makes the book very difficult to read. I found myself screaming, "just get on with it!". While the most interesting characters were never fully developed, the title character was overdeveloped and unlikeable. I grew weary of the constant whining over his destiny, remorse for things he did, or expostulating on everything from life mysteries to romantic endeavors. She wanted to create a Tolkein-like world, but ended up with only the dismal sha ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
This is an omnibus edition containing all 3 novels in the series. I would rate the first book (The Riddle Master of Hed) a five (5) star book with the two following not quite up to its standard. This is a great series.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Stuff I Read - Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip Review

I will admit to being a bit at a loss of what to say about this series. On the one hand, I liked a lot about it, and liked the way it meandered about and came at a couple question in interesting ways. On the other hand, this book was a bit dense in places and I didn't really feel that it helped the narrative to circle back and back to certain things, and there were parts where I just wanted to know what was happenin
Daniel Welker
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Of all the words to describe the Riddle-Master trilogy, "inheritor" might be the most apt to begin with.

This book is a spiritual successor to Tolkien in a way that very few fantasy series have ever managed. McKillip places the emphasis of her conflict on adventure, not action, and the plot is undertaken by the unlikeliest and most pitiful of creatures. In Middle-earth, a hobbit; in Riddle-master, a pig-farmer of Hed.

McKillip is also preoccupied with riddles, although she changes the rhythm to so
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I started reading this book and found myself a little bored or seeing ways I thought it could have written it better. But then suddenly, I found myself swept up by the mastery of the simplicity and I was in love with the world and the characters and the plots. The beauty is in the simplicity. The sparseness that still somehow captivates you. What this book does that so many modern books fail to do is that it gives you almost everything. It gives you enough and th ...more
Nov 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
mckillip tells us right up front in her introduction that this trilogy is a)inspired by tolkein and b)neither her favorite nor her best writing. she's quite correct on both counts.

telling the tale of a backwater prince (a somewhat large fish in a tiny pond, not entirely unlike certain hobbits) discovering his true destiny and just how important he is to saving the land from an incomprehensible evil, the structure is rather tolkeinesque. sadly, the best and worst of that work is stashed in here,
Glenn Hopper
Aug 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is my all time favorite series. Even though it is older than most it just brings me to tears every time I read it. The hero is so likable, so everyman, that he is easy to identify with, and Raderle, his love interest is so strong, so independent, the entire second book centers on her! This is over thirty-four years ago! The trilogy makes use of a number of themes from Celtic mythology.The novels take place in a fantasy world divided into a number of countries. Each ruler has a mystical awar ...more
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
I'm having a hard time getting into this book. The quotes on the cover not withstanding, someone should have edited these books (it's a compilation of 3 novels). I had a hard time following the dialogue in places because she doesn't always tell you whose talking and the characters behave in inexplicable ways. If it doesn't get any better soon, it'll be for sale on Amazon!
Finally finished the book which is a reprint of McKillip's first fantasy books. It was hard to read more than 2 pages at a t
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
First, I recommend that you read this compilation that contains all three books of the trilogy as you need to read them all and you need to read them all at once. Plus, since I read it that way, it was like reading one longer book (which I prefer) to three shorter books.

Anyway, I really enjoyed these books. The writing is lovely, almost poetic, which, for me, is both good and bad. Good, because of course beautiful writing is good, but bad because sometimes my admiration of a particular passage w
It pains me to give a fantasy book zero-stars, because fantasy is one of my favourite genres and I usually find something to like in a fantasy book even if I didn't think it was that great.

But I can't remember liking anything about The Riddle-Master. I found the writing obscure and difficult to get into, none of the characters were especially appealing and it seemed to me the plot just dragged on and on without going anywhere exciting. I'd give more details but I read this awhile ago and my only
Bryn Hammond
It restored my faith in fantasy and the writing was wonderful -- witty, taut, not overblown. The only thing Tolkien did better was the high seriousness of his resolution. He didn't write as well. (Even McKillip in a forward written for this re-issue says it was all about Tolkien for her, so for the first time I did that, I compared a fantasy to JRRT).

Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-scifi
Even better the second time! A good trilogy told in third person POV. En epic fantasy without all the huge battles, yet there are plenty of small battles and dangerous moments. This series has a fairy tale dreamy feeling. Author has a way with words and with characterization.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Belgariad Boxed Set: Pawn of Prophecy / Queen of Sorcery / Magician's Gambit / Castle of Wizardry / Enchanters' End Game (The Belgariad, #1-5)
  • Guardians of Being
  • The Earthsea Trilogy
  • The Deep Range
  • Earthlight
  • The Master of White Storm
  • The Great Book of Amber (The Chronicles of Amber, #1-10)
  • Last Call (Fault Lines, #1)
  • The Icewind Dale Trilogy Collector's Edition (Forgotten Realms: Icewind Dale, #1-3; Legend of Drizzt, #4-6)
  • The Sword of Shannara Trilogy (Shannara, #1-3)
  • Bound By Sorcery (Half-Goddess Chronicles, #1)
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, #1-3)
  • Paradise Lost
  • Aether's Blessing (Aether's Revival Book 1)
  • Beneath Cruel Fathoms (The Bitter Sea Trilogy, #1)
  • Poverty and Power: A Structural Perspective on American Inequality
  • So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America
  • Devil's Cry (Shade of Devil Book 2)
See similar books…
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.

According to Fantasy Book

Other books in the series

Riddle-Master (3 books)
  • The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master, #1)
  • Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2)
  • Harpist in the Wind (Riddle-Master, #3)

Related Articles

Myths and mayhem, the fantastical and the scientifically plausible, these are readers’ most popular sci-fi and fantasy novels published in the ...
141 likes · 28 comments
“I came back."
"Suppose you hadn't?"
"I came back! Why can't you understand, instead of thinking as though your brains are made of oak. Athol's son, with his hair and eyes and vision -"
"No!" Tristan said sharply. Eliard's fist, raised and knotted, halted in midair. Morgon dropped his face again against his knees. Eliard shut his eyes.
"Why do you think I'm so angry?" he whispered.
"I know."
"Do you? Even - even after six months I still expect to hear her voice unexpectedly, or see him coming out of the barn, or in from the fields at dusk. And you? How will I know, now, that when you leave Hed, you'll come back? You could have died in that tower for the sake of a stupid crown and left us watching for the ghost of you, too. Swear you'll never do anything like that again."
"I can't."
"You can."
Morgon raised his head, looked at Eliard. "How can I make one promise to you and another to myself? But I swear this: I will always come back."
"How can you -"
"I swear it.”
“She smiled. “I don’t know. I wonder sometimes, too. Then you touch my face with your scarred hand and read my mind. Your eyes know me. That’s why I keep following you all over the realm, barefoot or half-frozen, cursing the sun or the wind, or myself because I have no more sense than to love a man who does not even possess a bed I can crawl into at night. And sometimes I curse you because you have spoken my name in a way that no other man in the realm will speak it, and I will listen for that until I die. So,” she added, as he gazed down at her mutely, “how can I leave you?” He” 7 likes
More quotes…