Patricia A. McKillip is one of my favorite fantasy authors. I have written elsewhere about one reason that I like her work, namely that much of it involves a main character deciding not to seek revenge. (I suppose that makes her novels, with this aspect important, Christian, in a sense.)
Here's what another blogger wrote about her use of words:
Words seem ironically inadequate to describe the skill with which McKillip spins the English language into magic. Lyrical is one word that is often used in reviews, but it's so much more. Most of McKillip's work deals with magic, and if there is any true magic in the world, I would suspect it would be found in her use of language. I could luxuriate in work written by McKillip regardless of the story, simply to enjoyher use of words.
I agree. It is also true that McKillip can be obscure, and leave quite a bit unexplained.
The queen's voice cut sharply at him, cold and edged with astonishment. "What is the matter with you? You came out of that forest as heartless as your father." (p. 203). Queen Calandra is Prince Ronan's mother, and married to King Ferus of Serre, who has no love, or empathy, for anyone else, certainly including his wife and only son.
He had thought the wizard's last battle would be a tale of terror and courage, feats of unimaginable magic performed with heart-stopping skill and passion, good and evil as clearly defined as midnight and noon, a heroic battle for life and hope against the howling monster that left death in every footprint and ate life to fill the unfillable void where its heart had been. Instead he was trapped in the middle of something grisly, ugly, dreary, that ate into his own heart word by word until he could scarcely stand to look at himself. (212)
"This monster, when it could not kill me, reached into me and broke my heart. . . ." (213. The Wizard Unciel has described his battle with a monster to Euan Ash, the scribe who is working for Unciel. The wizard needs all sorts of help, because he has been weakened physically and emotionally, almost to the point of death.)
I don't see how I can summarize the plot, or even describe the characters (there are nine that I would consider main characters) in anything like a post length that's reasonable, even for me. So I'll just summarize the book this way:
McKillip has again written a book with excellent use of language, describing a marvelous forest, wizardry, and a cold castle. The Princess Sidonie decides that she doesn't want to marry Prince Ronan unless he re-claims his heart. He gave it away because his first wife and child died. After numerous trips, by several characters, into and through the forest, all is well. Everyone who should have a heart does, and the two really can fall in love and be married.
Three themes that I have found in some of McKillip's other work, namely rejection of vengeance, being visible in plain sight, and having someone strange in a character's pedigree, are not prominent in this book.
I hope that my heart is present, and doing what it's supposed to do.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life. (ESV)
Thanks for reading. Much of this post comes from a previous one.