Spend your holiday money on Patricia A. McKillip’s World Fantasy Award-winner THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD
This story was a wonderful surprise! If you enjoy fantasy books and take only one recommendation from this list, make it this one. It totally blew me away, it is clear to see why it won the World Fantasy Award in 1975. McKillip’s writing is magnificent, it is incredibly immersive and she expertly weaves very human emotions and events with magic. The character development of the protagonist is a joy to watch unfold. From isolation high in the mountains, we follow Sybel, a young, beautiful and powerful sorceress who has grown up surrounded by magical beasts. She has had very little human interaction and the story really begins when she is charged to raise a baby boy. What follows is an incredible adventure full of high stakes, deadly villains and angry kings, all while demonstrating the power of true love. I’ll leave you to discover what kind of love McKillip choses. There is no good vs evil here, but shades of grey. Each character has to follow their instincts, but it’s how their decisions affect others that the intricacy of this novel really comes to life. Despite its short length, THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD sure packs an emotional punch. It is amazing how much McKillip is able to explore and I mean it when I say that I have truly never read anything like it. The worldbuilding is breathtaking and all the characters, man and beast alike, have well developed, complex personalities that just jump from the page. This is how fantasy should be written.
FANTASY FACTION asked their readers to give one book that everyone should their holiday money on. Among the titles were two by McKillip.
The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD by Patricia A. McKillip
Not everyone has them. They are short, too, so perfect for a stocking stuffer. – Joe Perry
Photo: Stephen Gold/Wikimedia Commons
MALICE CORP recommends the book.
Finished once again with that Harry Potter novel? What if I told you that I have an old-school novel with fantastic animals, including a greedy dragon, a talking boar, and a giant killer falcon? If that sounds fun, try THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD by Patricia A. McKillip. It’s a story of magic, romance, and revenge. It also has one of the strongest female protagonists I’ve seen yet.
The book is set on a backdrop of powerful political forces fighting for control of the kingdom. Instead of that conflict being the main focus, though, we’re drawn into a more intimate view of the fight. It’s not about this noble house versus the king, or even about the boy who will sit on the throne. It’s about one woman and her growth as she’s caught in this tangle that she never wanted to be a part of.
Sybell is amazing as a strong protagonist who shows growth. She starts the story at sixteen years old, with an attitude born from isolation and introversion. She is emotionally stunted and aggressively defends her way of life, to the point where she almost has the baby-toting man thrown off the side of the mountain by a giant falcon. Said falcon reminds her that killing people is a great way to find a mob on your doorstep, effectively putting a halt to that plan. By age twenty-eight, she has grown to loving a few people but without compromising her character. She’s not sweet or even nice just because she’s learned to love someone besides herself. She is still cold and dangerous.
Even the writing reinforces this personal growth. Though written in the third person, we get this sense of mystery when it comes to other people and their motivations. The fight for the throne seems remote and almost unreal, like we have lived on this mountain with Sybel and her menagerie. We almost see the actions of others through her eyes; she is observant but doesn’t understand people, and the narrative doesn’t explicitly state motivations. Like her, we are left to our own devices to puzzle other people out.
For more info about THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Thomas Canty