Even after 30-plus years of reading fantasy, there are still a few icons in the genre that I have not read. One of those was Patricia McKillip. With her World Fantasy Award-winning novel THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD ($9.99, Tachyon Publications) up for its first e-book release in the near future, I took the opportunity to fix that oversight.
Epic doesn’t necessarily mean massive and sprawling. At a relatively brief 240 pages, THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD is certainly nothing short of epic.
That’s not to say that the tale is sparse. Though McKillip wastes no words, the ones that she puts on the page are lyrical and magical. Despite the speed with which the tale moves, there is an undeniable flow that carries the reader along and catches us up in the action and the drama of Sybel’s story, and it’s a remarkable work of literature.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD makes me sorry that I’ve neglected McKillip’s work for so long. I will soon remedy that situation.
Photo: Stephen Gold/Wikimedia Commons
For THE REVIEW CURMUDGEON, Mike Reeves-McMillan praises the novel.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I thought I’d read this before, but I didn’t remember it once I got into it, and I would have remembered a book like this. I think I’d just heard about it so often that I assumed I’d read it, particularly since I love the author’s other work.
McKillip writes with a magnificent complexity and depth, in the mythopoeic style championed by Tolkien. Lest we be fooled by the commercial epic fantasy of the 1970s and 1980s into thinking that Tolkien was all about armies and orcs and a quirky mixed group on a quest, this book reminds us that there was another, deeper layer to his work, which few subsequent authors have the skills to emulate. It’s poetic, without ever trying too hard for beauty for its own sake; it’s mythic, while also being anchored in the reality of human psychology; it’s epic, without depicting a single battle on stage (though a battle forms an important part of the backstory).
The wisdom at the heart of this book is that, in caring for others, we come to understand ourselves; and the person who comes to this insight most clearly is not the young boy, but the magically powerful middle-aged woman. It’s a landmark work in the fantasy field, and I’m glad it’s being reissued in ebook, and that I had the chance to read it through Netgalley for this review.
Cristina Alves at the Portuguese-language RASCUNHOS enjoys the book.
The premise of the story is not unknown – impossible loves, orphans who prove to be heirs to a throne or revenge that had long been forgotten; What is different is the way events coil and the board is turned over whenever it seems to slip into vulgarity. The end, this, is not at all expected, but the way is what distinguishes history.
(Translation from Portuguese courtesy of Google)
For BOOK RIOT, Celine Low includes THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD among her 9 Indulgent Fiction and Food Pairings.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD by Patricia A. McKillip
PAIRS WELL WITH:
TWG’s Silver Moon Tea. This is a blend of green teas, with a berry and vanilla bouquet. Sounds so magical, doesn’t it–‘silver moon’? Perfect for a book about the power of a name!
PAIRS POORLY WITH:
Chamomile. You know how your favourite music can put you to sleep? Yeah.
For more info about THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty