❰EPUB❯ ✷ Harpist in the Wind Author Patricia A. McKillip – Saudionline.co.uk

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10 thoughts on “Harpist in the Wind

  1. says:

    A riddle is a tale so familiar you no longer see it; it's simply there, like the air you breathe, the ancient names of Kings echoing in the corners of your house, the sunlight in the corner of your eye; until one day you look at it and something shapeless, voiceless in you opens a third eye and sees it as you have never seen it before. Then you are left with the knowledge of the nameless question in you, and the tale that is no longer meaningless but the one thing in the world that has meaning any more. (Heir of Sea and Fire)

    I cannot review the books in this series individually because they've come to form one achingly beautiful tapestry for me, one epic story broken up into three parts. In a way, I can't review them at all because every detail I'd want to comment on constitutes a spoiler. I will say instead that it's been a long time since I've read a series this brilliant and brave, this grand in scale, this heartwarming and heartbreakingly sad. This is an epic and simultaneously intimate story, one that is so perfect it makes me catch my breath in awe.

    The story takes turns I could never have foreseen and yet I should have foreseen them because they are so organic to the story that the book never could have progressed any other way. The language is poetry breathing through prose, elegant and lyrical, and it manages to capture the things that seemingly cannot be put into words.

    The grandeur of this series, the emotional intimacy, the thematic perfection, is something relatively matchless, I think, in the field of classic high fantasy. I cannot understand why this series is out of print. I can only say that if you find the books anywhere, grab them. They're worth it.


  2. says:

    I was a bit disappointed with this book. A bit too much mysticism & I wanted to kick some of the main characters a few times. My wife liked it a lot, better than the other two. It certainly, FINALLY, answers the myriad of questions that have been raised & comes to a resounding conclusion, but it wasn't blood thirsty enough & idolizes the idea of 'doing no harm'.

    Let me explain. It's not blood thirsty enough because our hero has put up with a lot & this is a sword & sorcery book. The hero feels too guilty at every death. Come on! He's been chased, had friends & family threatened & people tortured & murdered. Grow a pair & take a few heads with satisfaction, dude! But no, he has to whine about it. Ugh. It's one reason I generally prefer this sort of fantasy written by a guy. Women writers too often don't get behind the idea of vengeance, although when they do, they can be too mean. I think it's the way we're wired.

    The idyllic idea of doing no harm by being an herbivore that vegetates in the snow, basically retreats into Limbo, doesn't do much for me, although it is certainly more humane & better in the long run. Still, this along with some similar devices stretched the story out & made me impatient.

    It's possible that I was just frustrated a bit because this book couldn't top the first two & I really wanted it to. Both of them were new & fantastic in many ways & this one didn't have any really unique kick to it, but I'd built my expectations too high. Oh well, it's a must-read & you can make up your own mind. If you read the first two, you HAVE to read this one.


  3. says:

    “The shape-changers melted out of the trees, flew after him. For a while he raced ahead of them in a blinding surge of speed toward the distant green mountain. But as the sun set, they began to catch up with him. They were of a nameless shape. Their wings gathered gold and red from the sunset; their eyes and talons were of flame” (132). Harpist in the Wind the last book in the Riddle-Master trilogy, is a satisfying conclusion. Patricia McKillip keeps readers in suspense until the very end of the book; Morgon struggles with riddles and how to master his power in order to end the war while you, the reader, growls in frustration.

    The wizards, loosed from the Founder’s power, are gathering in the ancient ruins of the wizards’ school in Lungold. Raederle and Morgon travel there to meet with them and to help them fight against their old foe. Raederle, still fearful of the temptation of her shape-changer’s heritage, refuses to shape change into other forms that would make their passage across the land safer and quicker. While the other two books prepared the characters for battle, in this book the battles begin. Morgon is fighting two enemies—Ghisteslwchlohm and the shape-changers. He as yet does not understand the nature of the battle nor does he understand why the High One has remained silent all this time. While he is still hiding from the shape-changers and trying to find their place in this power struggle, he is also wary of Yrth, a Lungold wizard who is accompanying he and Raederle on their desperate journey across the land.

    I’ve read this book so many times you’d think I’d remember who is who and what the battle is ultimately about. I always forget though—probably because McKillip weaves the plot so expertly around riddles and myths and characters who are much more complicated than they seem—and almost all of the characters are complicated and full of deep, dark mysteries. Because this is the last book, riddles are answered, the true nature of shape-changers are seen, and the power of the realm is finally settled. There is a certain sadness in this book, because endings are never as exciting and fresh as beginnings, but Harpist in the Wind is a dramatic conclusion to this wonderful trilogy.

    If you prefer your fantasies to be less philosophical and poetic with the emphasis on magical deeds and swords, then you may want to skip this series. Stripped bare of its harping and star-bearing swords, it’s the story of knowing yourself and trusting yourself; of love that endures despite betrayals and hardships. All three books are lovely and well-written and should be considered classics of the fantasy genre, or any genre. My editions all include a “People and Places” glossary at the back (very helpful) and a map drawn by the author of the (nameless) realm (also very helpful).


  4. says:

    I listened to the series and wasn't captivated. Four years later, I read the books. I got MUCH more out of reading, rather than listening. I found that the story became more gripping. I cried towards the end. I was able to predict some of what happened, but McKillip didn't employ all the normal tropes (only some of them).

    Riddles (questions about history and destiny) occur throughout the series, and those unanswered questions bedeviled me. But they were FINALLY and FULLY addressed as the story reached a resounding conclusion.

    The audio narration by Simon Prebble was not bad, but nor did it enhance the story. I could barely hear a difference between voices for the wizard Ohm and Deth, for example.

    As with many fantasies, invented names for characters and places are hard to differentiate and remember via audio (An, Aum, Ohm, El, Iff, Nun, Tel, Tor, Hed, Har, Rood, Rork, Ymris, Yrth, etc) so I referred to a VERY helpful website: https://wizzley.com/riddle-master/


  5. says:

    This is the perfect end to the series. I feel satisfied with the answers to the riddles, and the ending is beautiful, especially Chapter 15, the second to last chapter of the novel. McKillip maintains the mystery throughout most of the novel but provides answers before the reader goes crazy with not knowing. Even after the riddles are pretty much all resolved, the book comes to a nice closing, not too drawn out or anticlimactic.
    As a series, I fully enjoyed Riddle-Master. I went on a journey with Morgon, trying like he does to answer the riddles of his destiny and of the past, present, and future of the High One's realm. The story is complex, but even when I felt most confused while reading, I was still enthralled by McKillip's prose and by the characters. Morgon's transformation from the Prince of Hed into the Star-Bearer is well done. It's subtle and realistic but striking by the end of the series. Deth is a great character, and I loved meeting the other wizards in this book. There could be an entire series just about them: Nun the pigherder, Aloil the poet, Talies the historian, Ghisteslwchlohm the Founder, Yrth the harpist...
    I recommend this series to fantasy lovers. The books aren't long, but the stories are complex, so you might take your time with them, but they're well worth it. I plan to reread them one day now that I have the answers. It will be interesting to go back and see how everything really fits together. I'm curious now about what other riddles McKillip has woven into stories.


  6. says:

    I have a confession to make. I actually tried to read Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy once before and failed. Despite the glorious things I had heard about the books, I got lost in a maze of odd names and confused about who was who, and I stopped reading about 20-some pages in due to an information overload. But I promised myself that I'd come back to it one day, because some of the things I'd been told about the books made them sound like a story that should not be missed.

    To say that I'm really glad that I did is an understatement. Once I learned to focus on the important things and allow the story to tell me which details were important, things went much more smoothly. All the place names and people that were mentioned slid off my mind like beads of water while I fixated on the main character, Morgon of Hed, his funny, brawling family, and his high-tempered friend, Prince Rood of An. And of course, once I realized that there was a romance in this book, I was hooked. (I'm a sucker like that.)

    As the story unfolds, we learn that Morgon is the Prince of Hed, a tiny, inconsequential farming kingdom where very little happens of note. That is, until Morgon decides to challenge a ghost in the land of An to a riddle match. When his sister finds the crown he won under his bed, Morgon discovers that he's stirred up a hornet's nest by quietly winning a contest so many men have died trying their hand at. He also discovers that the crown was not the only prize for besting the ghost: King Mathom of An also promised his daughter, Princess Raederle, to whoever beat the ghost's riddle game. Raederele is the sister of Morgon's friend, Rood. Morgon has known and admired Raederle for some time, and he's quite smitten with her. With visions of a beautiful, amber-eyed redhead dancing in his mind, he sets out from Hed with the intention of coming forward with the crown and seeking Raederle's hand.

    As much as Morgon would have been perfectly content to take his princess back to Hed and return to farming, making beer, and bickering with his siblings, the universe has other plans for him. No sooner does he leave his little island than do strange enemies come out of the woodwork, endangering not only Morgon, but those he loves best. In fighting and fleeing his foes, Morgon finds himself faced with a host of riddles even he can't answer that all seem to revolve around the mark of the three stars that has been on his face since birth. Those stars seem to mark him for a destiny that is larger than life, one set in place thousands of years before he was born. He must either give in to it or perish, even if embracing his destiny means giving up all of the things he holds most dear.

    The journey Morgon undertakes makes this Patricia McKillip's most traditional fantasy novel yet, as it has the quest structure and some of the familiar high fantasy archetypes. However, what elevates it and makes it extraordinary is her rich, imaginative world, filled with golden horned vesta bounding through the snows, land-rulers who are bonded to their lands such that they share an empathy with the earth itself, and odd, beautiful magic, where even the gentlest harping may hold great power. Once I started traveling with Morgon into these other lands, I couldn't have put the book down if I'd tried. Each new place held such marvels that I couldn't wait to see where he went to next or who he would meet. There is no doubting after you read this book that Patricia McKillip's imagination is a national treasure.

    The characters are another strong draw. Morgon, himself, is a sympathetic and flawed hero. He is not entirely willing to be sucked into the role of a legendary hero, but when duty calls, he has enough honor to step up. He's a kind, gentle man and a good brother, and relies on wit and intuition rather than pure brawn. And it also speaks well of him that he respects his lady love. Even though he has won the right to marry her by winning the riddle match, it is never Morgon's intention to show up and claim her like lottery winnings. No, Morgon's first through is to ask her if she would be willing to marry him, and then and only then will he take her back to Hed.

    Raederle, herself, is absent from the first book, but takes on a very nontraditional role in the second book. And that's the other thing that is so spectacular about these books. This fair princess is not sitting somewhere knitting booties for her future offspring while the hero does all the work. Raederle is an active heroine in the story herself, a fiery, spirited, independent, strong-willed woman who knows what she wants and goes after it. After all, Morgon is not the only one with a destiny here!

    I could go on about how beautifully McKillip handles Raederle's interactions with Morgon, keeping a legendary tone to the story, but also with a thread of realism and relatability, but I don't want to get too spoilery. Suffice it to say that this is not your typical fantasy story, though it's every bit as lovely and magical as you would hope it to be.

    Even without Morgon and Raederle earning gold stars for awesomeness, there's a whole host of supporting characters who shine in these books. Deth, the High One's harpist, is an intriguing riddle of a man who kept me on my toes throughout the books. King Har of Osterland, Danan Isig, Astrin Ymris, the Morgol, and Mathom of An also earned my respect and devotion in their time on the pages. I loved every one of them like they were old friends and anytime any of them had cause to grieve, I wanted to wade into the story and hug them.

    And did I mention how beautifully McKillip writes? You've heard me wax on about this before, if you've read some of my other reviews of her books. Still, it cannot be said enough: this woman has a poet's soul and a novelist's mind. Her words glitter and glint on the page, filling your mind with gorgeous, dream-like images. When describing a character's impatience, we are told that she feels that "even the dead of An, their bones plaited with grass roots, must be drumming their fingers in their graves." This book is filled with gorgeous passages that make me want to hang up my keyboard and stop pretending like I can share the name "writer" with someone like McKillip.

    In the end, as the pieces of the story came together, I could clearly see what McKillip had been building to from the beginning. Even the small patches where I doubted, thinking she was meandering a bit, snapped into focus as crucial moments that shaped the ending. In other books by this author, I've had to spend time mulling the rightness of the ending, wondering if the plot points truly lined up in the direction she had chosen. Usually, I come around to appreciate it, though I sometimes find myself wishing that things had played out a little differently here and there. This time, I didn't even have to think about it. I felt the rightness in the story, even though parts of it broke my heart.

    Ultimately, these books will resonate in my memory as some of the best I've ever read. So, to put it mildly, I'd recommend them. To put it less mildly, why are you still sitting here reading this review? Quick, order your copy now! And then come back and tell me how much you loved it! :)


  7. says:

    Fabulous prose, but pretty substandard story.

    The author really gains incredible command of their gift with words. At times the narrative dances through your brain from concept to concept as the main character uses their considerable magic power to understand nature. It really makes for some fine reading all by itself.

    Unfortunately, the characters just don't seem to make a lot of internal sense most of the time. The plot drags, and even the action sequences seem to lack urgency. What's at stake again? I'm not really sure.

    The antagonists never really gel as a believable force to me. An army of shapeshifters ought to inspire a lot more hysteria or sense of futility than they do. In the earlier books they seemed a lot more menacing. Here, even though we have a character on the side of the good hats who is half shapeshifter, that fact never reaches any kind of interesting catharsis or revelation.

    The main character remains an enigma for the most part. We've had three books now to build up his destiny and it all unravels literally within a few paragraphs and wham boom we're done with the book cue to epilogue. WHUT?

    Too much buildup and not enough payoff.

    The woman who was the main character in the second book pretty much just follows around her man like a satellite character the whole book, waiting for him to stop putzing around and get on with it. Really some wasted narrative ammunition there.

    There's a good series in here, with some gobsmacking ideas and scenes that want to come out. Maybe it ought to have been baked a lot more to let the flavors come out.

    Very disappointing, but oh well more books in the sea I guess.


  8. says:

    Sometimes I find story-lines that catch me at the heart, and this was one of them. The characters in this series are creative and varied, and the plot goes much deeper than I expected it to when I first stumbled upon these books in a used bookstore. Morgon experiences an incredible amount of character growth and change.

    But the part that held me the most was the true identity of (view spoiler)


  9. says:

    There are some fantasy epics that all literature professors, and most normal people, would consider essential reading for any well-educated person — J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, etc. So, yeah, I read those a long time ago. But beyond that, there's not much fantasy literature that's essential reading. So, for a long time, I didn't read any. In my drive to be educated, I stuck to the classics (which are classic because they're great literature, usually). But one day, maybe 15 years ago, Patricia McKillip's RIDDLE-MASTER fell into my hands. I can't remember exactly when, and I can't remember how. I can't even remember enough to t... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...


  10. says:

    I can't really figure out exactly why I didn't like this book and perhaps due to my confusion I rated it three stars (though something in me wants to give it only two). The first thing that comes to my mind is that the delicacy of the first book of the series (Riddlemaster of Hed) was missing, and I think this was because the focus of the story was not on learning about the magic but on using it and noting its effects. There are certainly some delicate and silent moments, but it seemed that McKillip was more 'searching' for them than 'writing within them' (though this is making a lot of assumptions about her writing process, I suppose). The story was interesting, the climaxes very fine and fantastic, and the outcome, in my opinion, really well done. I liked where the main characters went, what the story became and how the questions of the first two books were answered, but, again, there was something missing. Perhaps it was that all the questions were answered that was my problem. McKillip really stretched the act of writing and the abilities of the English language in getting at the intricate details of her world, but in this I feel that she got almost -too- close. There is a distance that she hit in the first book that was really rather beautiful, but in the Harpist in the Wind I feel that she tried too much to embrace and hold the mystery rather than explore and encircle it. To reference Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle, perhaps she painted too much the far off mountains instead of leaving there only hints and painting a great tree. Perhaps I am being too critical, but I just felt that there was something lacking, and lacking because there was too much there.


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