The Internet continues to explode about the publication of the new edition of Patricia A. McKillip’s World Fantasy Award-winner THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, now available in paperback and for the first time as an ebook.
On B&N SCI-FI & FANTASY BLOG, Joel Cunningham includes the book among This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books: A Cyborg Romance, the Future of Global Politics, and the Return of Forgotten Beasts.
More than 40 years after it was first published, McKillip’s World Fantasy Award-winner is unquestionably a classic of the genre, and it reads as timelessly as ever in this new print and ebook edition. It’s the story of a woman named Sybel, who lives alone in a remote castle where she cares for a stable of magical creatures and hunts for a mythical bird, and how her world is shattered by the sudden appearance of Coren, a nobleman who delivers her a child and pulls her into a petty conflict between men. It’s a slender, beguiling story that does more with less, packing a complex, bewitching world and achingly real, frustratingly human characters into a page count that disguises the expansiveness of the ideas within.
Nisi Shawl for THE SEATTLE REVIEW OF BOOKS praises the classic.
As noted above, recent covers for Patricia McKillip’s fantasies are almost always painted by Kinuko Y Craft. Except when they’re not; a new reprint of her groundbreaking World Fantasy Award-winner THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD (Tachyon) is graced instead by Thomas Canty’s art. And why not? McKillip’s soaring prose, lyrics to songs our hearts have forgotten they knew how to sing, deserves Canty’s accompaniment. The feminist underpinnings of the book’s plot — a self-sufficient woman who refuses to be stripped of her autonomy starts a war she swore never to fight — deserve our attention now as much as they did in 1974, when Beasts was first published. If you’ve never read it, you deserve to. Or if, like me, you read it long ago and have made do since with a tiny but affordable mass market paperback, you deserve Tachyon’s elegant trade paperback edition, at least half as beautiful as McKillip’s story. Which sounds stingy as compliments go, but is actually extremely high praise.
BOOKWRAITHS enjoys the fantasy.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD is a wonderfully written, richly textured, high fantasy from Patricia A. McKillip. Even though it is quite limited in length, it is still filled with insightful moments and fascinating insights; all of it set in beautifully rendered fairy tale world.
What always catches me unprepared whenever I read (or reread) a Patricia A. McKillip novel is her unbelievable prose. It isn’t elaborate or flowery, merely lyrical and purposeful. Every word has its place and its use in her narratives, yet she never feels a need to expound unnecessarily. Important events taking place in pages rather than chapters. Concise, meaningful, and lovely. That is how this author writes, and I only wish more fantasy offerings these days mimicked her style.
As for the story itself, it was poignant, quick, and emotional. Sybel’s life, her choices, and the ones she love caught up in the quagmire she has unknowingly been drawn into. Her words and response to both the child and that which comes later filled with a layer of meaning and depth which will truly touches a reader’s heart strings.
As for any criticisms or complaints, I have none. McKillip has always been a writer I was in awe of, especially her amazing ability to craft an exciting fantasy tale that still finds a place for both dignity and seriousness in its pages, and THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD was no exception, making me wonder only why it took me so long to actually read it.
Lyrical, complex, concise, and emotional, this novel is one I will be readily espousing to lovers of high fantasy, fairy tales, and beautifully writing. Patricia A. McKillip isn’t an author spoken of very often these days, but she should be, because her works are treasures of the genre.
For more info about THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty