My choice this week is by an author who is new to me. To my shame I’d never heard of Patricia A. McKillip, nor of her trilogy “The Riddle-Master’s Game.”
The first of the three books “The Riddle Master of Hed” was published in 1976 and the other two novels “Heir of Sea and Fire” and “Harpist in the Wind”, followed in 1977 and 1979. I, however, read all three in the same volume and what a treat that was.
The writing is beautiful; both vivid and poetic, it creates a totally believable world, where magic exists in parallel to mundane daily life, cattle are milked, pigs herded and shape changed, by those who have the power.
With a rich layer of myth and legend, which harks back to Celtic origins the novels explore the truth of things, the importance of knowing who you are and following your destiny. Hence the part that riddles play in the plot, because riddle can conceal and reveal meaning and decoding them is a gift which brings with it unknown dangers.
To question, is to upset the balance of things, but Morgon, Prince of Hed, is a riddle master and cannot help but seek to find the truth, even though it leads him where he does not want to go.
The Princess Raederle is also in conflict with what she knows and what she fears. The two are destined to be together. There is a prophecy that they will marry, but how and when is far from clear.
The first book follows Morgon’s story, the second Raederle’s and they come together in the last volume, where they face far more fundamental questions about the nature and very existence of the High One on whom the survival of the world appears to rely.
I love this mix of seriousness with domestic scenes and the mysterious beauty of the white vesta and the depiction of the court of the wolf king where wild animals come to shelter from the winter.
What also appeals are the strong women characters, Raederle herself and Morgon’s