Acclaimed author Patricia A. McKillip, a recipient of the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, has written more than 30 novels since the publication of her first more than 40 years ago. Among the earliest of these novels is her self-described first major fantasy, THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, which won the World Fantasy Award and was selected as a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award after its release in 1974. This beloved standalone fantasy was recently re-released in trade paperback and ebook with gorgeous cover art by Thomas Canty and a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger, who shares that this is her favorite book of all time and has been for more than 30 years. She also expresses her difficulty in finding words to properly describe the scope and brilliance of THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, and having just read it for the second time, I find myself in the same position. It’s a beautifully written story about a mage with a menagerie of legendary animals, and at its heart it’s about power, love and hate, choice—and Sybel herself, the extraordinary heroine who becomes entangled in human affairs after leading a secluded life like her father and grandfather before her.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD is a spellbinding novel, and like Gail Carriger wrote in the book’s foreword, I’m finding it difficult to find the words to adequately describe it. It’s a trademark McKillip book with its lovely prose, fairy tale feel, occasional moments of quiet humor, and timeless themes—and yet it’s unlike anything else I’ve read. (Of course, that uniqueness in itself is trademark McKillip!) It twists and turns and doesn’t end up where one may expect from its beginning, and yet its path is always true to Sybel and her character. It’s fantasy complete with a kingdom, magic, intelligent and/or talking animals (including a dragon!), and emphasis on threes and sevens, and like the best stories in the genre, it’s an imaginative, immersive story about humanity that lingers in the memory long after reaching the end.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD is a fantastic book with a lot to digest, yet it’s utterly captivating and never dull. It’s especially impressive how such a refined story without much action can seem so earth-shattering decades after its publication, especially in its portrayal of the heroine at its core. THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD is a stunning masterpiece of fantasy, and I suspect this will not have been my last time rereading this elegantly written novel.
My Rating: 10/10
Photo: Stephen Gold/Wikimedia Commons
Sheila Goicea at SHE’S GOING BOOK CRAZY includes the novel in her September Wrap-Up.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD – by Patricia A. McKillip (4.5 stars) is a lovely, whimsical read about a woman who grew up in seclusion with mythical animals. This book was actually first published back in the 1970’s, and could easily be considered a classic!
For more info about THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty