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The Riddle-Master of Hed

(Riddle-Master #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  11,298 ratings  ·  454 reviews
Long ago, the wizards had vanished from the world, and all knowledge was left hidden in riddles. Morgon, prince of the simple farmers of Hed, proved himself a master of such riddles when he staked his life to win a crown from the dead Lord of Aum. But now ancient, evil forces were threatening him. Shape changers began replacing friends until no man could be trusted. So ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 12th 1980 by Del Rey / Ballantine (first published 1976)
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Robert Gibson Yes, they're very good. Left a strong impression when I was reading a ton of fantasy when I was fourteen or fifteen. Morgon's travels spoke to me…moreYes, they're very good. Left a strong impression when I was reading a ton of fantasy when I was fourteen or fifteen. Morgon's travels spoke to me specifically at that time in my life. Thanks for sharing.(less)

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  11,298 ratings  ·  454 reviews


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Laura
Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
There's just something frustrating about this book.

It just doesn't quite seem to get where it's going.

The story starts out with this really run-of-the-mill prince. That sounds like an oxymoron, but it's not. He's ruler of this really simple, down-to-earth place called Hed and is just an incredibly unpretentious character. Despite being the prince, he ends up wrestling his brother in a mud puddle within just a handful of pages. It's hard to really get into the story at first, because although he
...more
Jim
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
2019 Review It's been a long time since I reread this. I have a lot of fond memories & found it quite good again, although I really like more realism in my novels now. This is an epic fantasy, quite lyrical in nature. It's more like a complex fairy tale & beautiful in that way. If you like that sort of thing, this is a 5 star read that I can't recommend highly enough.

Unfortunately, I seem to have become a grump. A farmer who has that much of a problem with death? Bacon doesn't grow at
...more
Kaion
Aug 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy, unfinished
Fantasy without any fantastic. 'Riddles' without any riddles! More accurately, what here is described as riddle-figuring is actually history/mythology research. But I guess that 'The Primary-and-Secondary-Document Seeker of Hed' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

Characters should be great by what they do. I don't want to be told how clever and destined-for-great-things a character is- I want to be shown it without the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, only a bit more than nothing occurs
...more
Garth
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Othy
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A very impressive novel. McKillip is both an impressive storyteller and author, showing her intricate skill in this the first part of the Riddlemaster Trilogy. Mysterious, at times chilling, and with fascinating characters, "The Riddlemaster of Hed" reminds me of Le Guin and, to some extent Tolkien, authors who I believe to be masters of fantasy literature. McKillip's descriptions and dialogue are very well constructed, pulling the reader (or at least me) in to read quickly yet also deeply. At ...more
Kavita
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, yawnfest
Morgon of Hed rules his small kingdom. But it's nothing fancy and Morgon even has to help his subjects mend their roofs. He's more of a village chief than a king, really. But he has one thing going for him - he is a whiz at solving riddles. This is how he defeated the ghost king of Aum and got away with his life. Morgan has a destiny - three stars on his forehead proclaim it to everyone. The question is - would he accept it or not?

This is the gist of the story here. Is Morgan going to go forward
...more
Jenny
*****4.5*****
This book surprised me. I found it in the local used bookstore, and I liked the cover and the title, but I put off reading it because I didn't know if it would be compelling enough. Well, I was captivated right away by McKillip's writing style and by her protagonist, Morgon. Then, the story line drew me in. The plot is so mysterious: who is Morgon? why does he have three stars on his forehead? why do so many people want to kill him?
Answers and partial answers are revealed slowly,
...more
Kristina
There are books that I pull from my shelves to re-read every few years. They may be romantic thrillers or science-fiction or fantasy or classics. What they all have in common is superb story-telling, characters who are as familiar to me as friends and family, and worlds so detailed and engrossing that I am transported there as soon as I open the book. Patricia McKillip’s Riddle-Master trilogy are books that I have loved ever since I first read them. The world she creates is magical and complete ...more
Mark
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
A lovely trilogy that somehow manages to balance an epic scope while being focused on just two people trying to figure out who they are. This first book is about Morgon, a farmer with a knack for answering riddles (a bit more like Zen koans) who was born with three stars on his head.

Yes, this is the "Chosen One of the Ancient Prophecy" trope that I hate so much. I think there are a number of reasons it works for me here. First, there isn't a concrete prophecy looming over each action. Morgon
...more
Violinknitter
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love this trilogy far beyond reason, so I won't try to give a reasoned review. I will give a few words of advice, though. The first book is in no way a stand-alone story. The trilogy only makes sense if you read the entire trilogy... much more like a book of the Lord of the Rings than a Harry Potter book that can be enjoyed on its own terms apart from the rest of the series. Secondly, there is a major shift in viewpoint between the first & second books of the trilogy, so don't expect ...more
Greymalkin
Feb 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi-fantasy
Lovely language and delicate mythos but I just couldn't get over the riddles that weren't riddles. The wordplay was too much for me and although it is a slim book, it felt much longer because the main character kept dragging his heels and complaining through the whole book. It had a feeling a bit like Taran Wanderer (which I love) so I can see why people would love this but it wasn't for me, alas!
Theo Logos
No Mr. Wolfe, you CAN go home again.
(Well, at least sometimes.)
I first read The Riddle Master of Hed in 1978. I was 14 years old, had read The Lord of the Rings the same year, and at the time, consider them pretty much on par. Riddle Master captured me with the same sense of unfolding wonder of a world with a deep history, more than half lost in mystery, that unfolded slowly as a crucial element of the ongoing story. Fourteen year old me immediately placed The Riddle Master trilogy among the
...more
Ron
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, maps, ebook
“When you open your minds and hands and heart to the knowing of a thing, there is no room in you for fear.”

Sorry I missed this when first published in 1974. Better than most post-LOTR imitators. McKillip may feel that she’s surpassed this earlier effort, but this is a deeper, more satisfying tale than many more famous competitors, which admittedly is a low bar.

“Truth,” the Master Ohm murmured, “needs no apology.”

It took the entire book to get the protagonist interested in his quest, along the
...more
Margo
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Repetitive and painful to read. I do not like the writing style at all. Every time Morgon goes to sleep, someone tries to kill him. Every single time. If it gets dark or someone yawns or they've been traveling a long time and someone says they should rest, you immediately know someone is about to try to kill Morgon -- again. In pretty much the same way, because it's always this shape-shifting creature. I'm less than half way through the book even though I've been trying to read it for months, ...more
Kaitlin
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 tells the story of Morgon, Prince of Hed, who manages to unravel a riddle and earn himself notoriety and magical propechy. Morgon never really knew what he was getting by completing the Riddle, but let's just say it becomes something much much
...more
Dana
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
Didn't finish.

In the first chapter, Main Character (MC) and his siblings have a fight in front of their subjects involving a rose bush and a poured bucket of sour milk. The siblings are angry because MC went on a riddle quest and won the quest by asking, "What was the monster that knocked on a door, that one time?" This is not a riddle, but anyway. Then MC buys a harp and goes on a ship back to visit the college he attended, so he can tell the brother of his future bride that he is the one who
...more
Kathleen
Good story, quite imaginative. I read it a second time, the entire trilogy, and liked it much more. The first time through, I didn't read it, I only listened to it. I lost a lot that way, including some nuance and details on the complexities of this plot. The story gradually pulled on my heartstrings, especially through the complex characterization of Deth, the harpist.

Simon Prebble is a fine narrator, but he didn't add anything to this story. He didn't differentiate between characters enough so
...more
Mike (the Paladin)
See my review of the omnibus volume. I stumbled over this book back in '77 or '78 and then had to wait till I could find the next volume. Very frustrating. A good series, I find the first volume to be the best of the 3 though I've read reviews of those who disagree.
Andrea
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Most of this book was Morgon begrudgingly or outright telling prophecies and such to go fuck themselves. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with riddles about his fate. Man, I really felt for him. All he wanted was to go home to be with his siblings, but instead he's roped into a huge adventure that makes him question everything he thinks he knows about himself.

See Morgon was born with three stars on his head. And these three stars keep showing up in un-answerable riddles. So Morgon goes off to
...more
Shellie
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Some books keep you up at night reading, dreaming, questioning. This book put me to sleep every time I opened it. I think the cause of my novel-induced narcolepsy was a combination of things.

First and most importantly, Morgon's stops along his journey were so unrelated and unconnected that I would just be getting used to the city and the character he was meeting when BAM! some random shape-changer, trader, or disappearing sailor would try to kill him in some not-so exciting way and we'd move on
...more
Metaphorosis
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2019-rev
4.5 stars, Metaphorosis Reviews

Summary:
Morgon has a crown gathering dust under his bed. And his sister is none too happy that he risked his life riddling with a ghost to get it. When the High One’s harpist turns up and tells them what else the crown means, Morgon sets out to find out who he really is.

Review:
This book is one of the things that got me interested in fantasy to begin with. There were others – Donaldson, Lewis, Vance, Zelazny – but this series was among the most accessible. I wasn’t
...more
Abigail Hartman
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Abigail by: Jennifer Freitag
Shelves: fantasy
Reread: June 2016
So I said in my first review that it's a cliff-hanger ending and you should have the second book on hand, but I a) didn't go on to read the rest of the series back in 2012 (why? I can't remember) and b) failed to have Heir of Sea and Fire on hand when I finished Riddle-Master this time around. Do as I say, not as I do. At any rate, while I had a few more quibbles with the writing than I remember having four years ago (it's very omniscient with some occasional head-hopping: not
...more
Nikki
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is beautifully written, as all of Patricia McKillip's work is. However, something in the density of it makes it difficult -- not to read; I sped through it, in that sense, but to understand exactly what it going on and how we should feel about it. I've had that problem with one or two of McKillip's other books, so I think it's something about her style which may or may not be a problem for other people. I wouldn't actually start here, with McKillip: I first fell in love with The Changeling ...more
Andrea
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those border books that not everyone has heard of but is actually probably my favorite book ever. I have read it and reread it probably a hundred times and will reread it for comfort up there with Pride and Prejudice and Unbearable Lightness of Being-- all books I could read over and over without getting sick of them. For anyone who would look at this and dismiss it as stupid fantasy writing they are missing the huge parable that dies not make sense until you read the last chapter ...more
Ryan St george
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'll review this book a little different than usual. Reason being I had extremely high expectations regarding this. I love riddles, mazes, creepy castles, Celtic themed fantasy, with a deep and interesting lore.

The good: Awesome idea for a fantasy setting, decent world building, the idea of riddles being involved, interesting magic, quest, mysteries, riddle college, and Celtic themes.

The bad: weak characterization, insanely boring dialogue, slow chore like pace, no real riddles, and it's just
...more
AnHeC the Paperback Obliterator
Now, I should start with admitting I'm partial to this book. I've read it as a kid, it was a gift from my parents (whole 3 books). And I loved it. It had some wisdom in it, that I needed at the time. And a few of my favourite quotes hit me still today.

So, let's get on with review.

I liked the main character. I liked the fact, that he didn't necessarily seek glory. Didn't want to save the world, so to speak. An unwilling hero. A guy that loves peace and quite and books (^^) but life has other
...more
Bryan
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a very good book that had me thinking for a while there that it was “merely” good. In Goodreads terms, I started off really liking this book and thinking it was going to be a four-star book, at least. From the middle on, though, it really slowed down, and Morgon’s denial of the bleeding obvious started to grate on my nerves. Near the end, I was thinking “Nope, this has dropped down to a three-star rating,” but then the twist at the end happened, and immediately renewed my flagging ...more
Luke Burrage
Read it twice in a row! Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #363.
Katie
January 2015

Finally planning to read the rest of the trilogy, so re-read this so I could remember stuff! I still feel like I need to read more before I know what I think. There are things that don't entirely work for me in this book, like in a lot of ways, Morgan is so alone for most of it, and I do think he goes back and forth about his destiny too much. (And also I feel like I needed to be hit over the head more with his destiny and why it was so important for him to pursue it.) Buuut all of
...more
Ian Mathers
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'm keeping the collected edition on my favourites shelf for simplicity, but I reread this series recently and it was just as wonderful as I expected. This book, especially, I read over and over when I was younger, because I couldn't get my hands on the second part! I'm still waiting to find a creature in fantasy fiction depicted with as much compelling strangeness and genuine sense of the otherworldly as the shapechangers here, and I just love so many things about the world McKillip sets up ...more
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2,032 followers
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
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Other books in the series

Riddle-Master (3 books)
  • Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2)
  • Harpist in the Wind (Riddle-Master, #3)
“If you have no faith in yourself, then have faith in the things you call truth. You know what must be done. You may not have courage or trust or understanding or the will to do it, but you know what must be done. You can't turn back. There is now answer behind you. You fear what you cannot name. So look at it and find a name for it. Turn your face forward and learn. Do what must be done.
-Deth to Morgon, Prince of Hed-”
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