The Bell at Sealey Head
Patricia A. McKillip
Ace, 2008 (2008)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
atricia McKillip writes subtle and powerful fantasy with elegant turns of phrase that linger in a reader's memory. Her
Riddle Master of Hed
is a genre classic. More recent notable works include
Song for the Basilisk
Ombria in Shadow
Alphabet of Thorn
his fantasy centers on the mystery of an unseen bell that has always rung at twilight in the seaside town of Sealey Head. Patricia McKillip eases readers into the mystery, first introducing her engaging cast of characters. Judd Cauley struggles to keep the Inn at Sealey Head in business, despite the fact that his cook, Mrs. Quinn, serves meals that drive away guests in droves. He's delighted by the arrival of a solitary guest, traveling scholar Ridley Dow, who tolerates the food and lends books to the innkeeper. Judd has long loved Gwyneth Blair (a storyteller and the daughter of a rich merchant), but feels he has little to offer her. Wealthy Raven Sproule of Sproule Manor courts Gwyneth, abetted by his sister Daria.
hen there are those who inhabit Aislinn House. In the real world is Lady Eglantyne (who's at death's door) and her few servants, in particular housemaid Emma, whose mother is a wood witch. Emma has always been able to open doors inside Aislinn House into a parallel world ruled by cruel ritual - one filled with '
the gruff voices of knights, the lovely, passionate voices of the ladies, the echoes of quarrels, booming laughter, the magnificent, outlandish feasts
' - where she has befriended Princess Ysabo. Neither dares cross the threshold to enter the other's world. Ysabo, filled with questions, has been raised with the mantra '
Don't ask why
' and is severely punished when she does.
he plot thickens when Lady Eglantyne's niece and heir, Miranda Beryl, takes up residence at Aislinn House. Members of her entourage take rooms at the inn and stay to enjoy the excellent meals provided by Judd's new cook, Mr. Pilchard. Ridley Dow seeks out information on the bell to undo an evil deed of his ancestor's, and Emma looks for ways to help her friend Ysabo, who has been told she is to marry a knight who hit her. Patricia McKillip masterfully weaves these strands together into a delightful fantasy, that celebrates the love of books and storytelling and blends the everyday with high magic.
The Bell at Sealey Head
is not to be missed by fantasy fans.
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.
Find more Fantasy books on our
or in our book