Ace, 2005 (2005)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
am never disappointed when I pick up a fantasy by Patricia McKillip, author of the wonderful
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
, and recently
Alphabet of Thorn
, amongst many other amazing reads.
s this story opens, legendary, long-lived Od sends Brenden, a grieving herbalist (who is, of course, much more than that) to be a gardener at the wizard's school in Kelior. Od saved the kingdom of Numis and started the school years before, but has not visited it since then. Now, the school is closely watched by King Galin through his tame wizard Valoren, and magic and magicians are hedged in by rules and regulations. It's said that the king guards his magic '
Like an old beggar woman guards her rags.
ar, who once made wild, powerful magic and has accepted the school's boundaries for nineteen years, is restless. He says of magic that
'We teach the word for dark. We have forgotten the night.
' Princess Sulys is also discontented. Since her mother died, her father and brother have both changed; no-one
to her. She wants more out of life than to marry Valoren, her father's choice. And she yearns to learn more of her own gift, the '
' taught to her by her grandmother, but forbidden in her father's realm.
omplications arise when renowned illusionist Tyramin performs in Kelior's wild Twilight Quarter. Sent to discover if more than tricks are involved, quarter warden Arneth is enchanted by Tyramin's daughter Mistral. There's also a maze with unusual properties underneath the wizard school, and in Brenden's north country at Skrygard Mountain lies a mystery - ancient beings, in whom Od has an interest, full of '
Power shaped by wonder and curiosity, even love. Not by fear and laws that shut out instead of inviting in.
, Patricia McKillip shows us what happens to people and societies when power is constrained, that ought to be free, in a story that's as powerful and as unique as anything else that she has written - and that's saying something.
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