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Previous SFF Author: Dennis L. McKiernan

SFF Author: Patricia McKillip

Patricia McKillip(1948- )
Patricia McKillip is well-known for her beautiful, poetic writing style. She has won numerous awards for her stand-alone novels and short stories. Her fantasy epic RiddleMaster won the 1980 World Fantasy Award. Patricia McKillip lives in Oregon with her husband, poet David Lunde.



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The House on Parchment Street: A ghost story from a developing fantasy writer

The House on Parchment Street by Patricia McKillip

I probably would never have known about The House on Parchment Street (1973) were I not such a huge fan of Patricia McKillip‘s fantasy stories, and while browsing her name on a library search engine, this title popped up. It was obviously one of her earliest published works, so I was willing to give it a go.

The House on Parchment Street is profoundly different from her later stories,


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The Forgotten Beasts of Eld: A supremely entertaining book

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip

As one of Patricia McKillip’s earlier works, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld provides an interesting comparison to her first publication Riddle-Master, a dense trilogy that made the most of her trademark poetic-prose. On the other hand, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a relatively slim volume with a clear concise style and a straightforward story. Since then, McKillip has managed to successfully merge the aspects of both works in her later works,


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RIDDLE-MASTER: Belongs in a genre all its own

THE RIDDLE-MASTER TRILOGY by Patricia McKillip

Your Eyes are Full of the Sun…

My entirely subjective opinion of “epic fantasy” is that it is tedious, predictable and just plain boring most of the time. The same line-up of stock characters go on the same quest to save a land that is permanently stuck in the Middle-Ages. On the way they meet the same supporting characters (gruff dwarf, regal elf, mysterious wizard), collect the same treasures, get in the same tavern brawls, are betrayed by the same turncoats,


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The Changeling Sea: A sweet, simple fairytale about the sea

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

I’m a huge fan of Patricia McKillip’s work, but it’s taken me a while to get my hands on The Changeling Sea, and once read I found that it was a rather unique addition to her body of work. One of her earliest books (published back in 1988), and possibly her only work that was written specifically with a young audience in mind, The Changeling Sea is a slender novel with an extremely simple plot.


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The CYGNET duology: Early Patricia McKillip

CYGNET by Patricia McKillip

She walks the path of time toward this house…

Two Patricia McKillip books in a single volume, what could be better?

As two of her earliest works, the CYGNET duology (composed of The Sorceress and the Cygnet and The Cygnet and the Firebird) make for more challenging reads than her later offerings. McKillip is renowned for her complex writing techniques. It’s obvious to those who are familiar with her distinctive poetic-prose that she’s still getting the hang of it here,


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The Book of Atrix Wolfe: Mysterious and beautiful

The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip

I would have brought you every bird in the wood…

Patricia McKillip once again takes a seemingly simple plot and shapes into something mysterious and beautiful through the use of her poetic, luminous language. It must be said that McKillip’s writing style is entirely unique, to the point where it is slightly off-putting to anyone reading it for the first time. Because she incomparable to anyone else I can think of, the best I can do to explain it is to say that her books are like Shakespeare in the fact that it seems indecipherable when you first begin to read,


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Winter Rose: A dreamy and mysterious tale of family secrets

Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip

The first time I read Patricia McKillip, I didn’t get very far. The book was the Riddlemaster of Hed, and I was completely unprepared for her complex use of language. But there must have been something in her style that intrigued me, because I tracked down Winter Rose not long afterwards, and since then have been a big fan of all her work. Out of all Patricia McKillip’s books (at least the ones I’ve read) Winter Rose is perhaps the most opaque.


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Song for the Basilisk: Music can heal and destroy

Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip

One of Patricia McKillip’s earlier novels, Song for the Basilisk has all the hallmarks of her fantasy fiction: unique prose, ambiguous characters, fairytale settings, court intrigue, and a love of musical instruments. Here especially McKillip calls on her appreciation for viols, flutes, harps and picochets (the one-stringed instrument on the cover), in which music plays a crucial part in the narrative.

As a child, Rook is pulled from the ashes of a fireplace and smuggled away to the isle of Luly where the bards live.


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The Tower at Stony Wood: Not her best work

The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia McKillip

Patricia McKillip is one of the most unique fantasy writers out there, blending echoes of ancient stories in with intricate and elegant poetic-prose that may surprise those new to her writing style. I must admit that her work is an acquired taste, it took me a few tries to fully understand and appreciate her work; to grasp the story underneath the many-layered poetic language that she invokes.

The Tower at Stony Wood is no exception to this style,


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Ombria in Shadow: Dreamy and intricate tale

Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip

Like all of Patricia McKillip‘s books, Ombria in Shadow is a dreamy, intricate tale, made memorable by her distinctive poetic prose. Symbols, circumstances and meanings can be interpreted on any number of deeper levels, making her books ones to be savored and re-read. If you are a lover of eloquent poetry and subtle imagery, then let Ombria in Shadow be the first of McKillip’s range of stories to let you drift away on language that must have been meticulously chosen in order to create a sense of faery and dreaming.


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The FIREBIRDS Anthologies: Excellent short fiction for young adults

The FIREBIRDS anthologies edited by Sharyn November

Firebirds is the first of the three FIREBIRD anthologies edited by Sharyn November. Some people don’t like short stories, especially in anthologies where you are reading several different authors. I, however, almost always have a volume of short stories on my bedside table. Even if I manage to get no other reading done during a hectic day, it is a way for me to finish a whole story in 15-20 minutes. In an age where many authors seem incapable of writing anything other than multi-novel epics,


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In the Forests of Serre: Intricate imagination

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip

Patricia A. McKillip once more takes us into her intricate and ornate imagination with In the Forests of Serre, which has the feeling of an old fairytale that McKillip has discovered in some old book and fleshed-out for us in her unique style of writing. Combining several components from various myths and legends, (predominantly the Firebird and a witch who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Russian Baba Yaga), In the Forests of Serre is a book that McKillip’s fans will find to their liking.


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Alphabet of Thorn: My favourite

Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip

Once again Patricia McKillip crafts a wonderful story, and although I must admit that I haven’t read all of her novels, I think it’s safe to say that Alphabet of Thorn is one of her best works. Out of her many books I have read, this one is definitely my favourite. Her beautiful language, her startling imagery, her intricate plot, her mind-twisting ideas… all come together in this stunning story.

In a beautiful cliff-top palace by the sea (so high that one cannot hear the ocean from the top) a coronation is taking place for the young and inexperienced Queen Tessera.


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Harrowing the Dragon: A story collection by Patricia McKillip

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

Patricia A. McKillip is the author of several wonderful books (my favourites being Alphabet of Thorn and Winter Rose) and is one of the few fantasists in the publishing world that is original. Although her stories may contain typical fantasy elements (dragons, heroes, kingdoms, quests, good versus evil, etc) they are written in such beautiful poetic-prose that the stories transcend the clichés they stem from; reading more as luminous fairytales than hum-drum fantasy. Although the prose is beautiful,


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Od Magic: A mild book

Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip

The city of Numis is home to the famous Od School of Magic, founded years ago by the legendary giantess Od. She’s apparently immortal, but appears only occasionally, and therefore the school lies in the hands of the king Galin and the wizard-headmaster Valoren, who demand strict obedience from its students. Any unorthodox magic is outlawed, any student that step outside the boundaries set for them are expelled. This is especially true of any student who goes wandering in the Twilight Quarter of the city: a neighborhood that comes alive only after dark,


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Solstice Wood: A good place to start with McKillip

Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip

Solstice Wood is a sequel (of sorts) to Patricia McKillip‘s earlier novel Winter Rose. The latter book is a dark and intricate fairytale based on the ballad of Tam Lin, in which a young girl attempts to free her love from the designs of a faerie queen. Though still set in the mountains around Lynn Hall, Solstice Wood takes place hundreds of years later, as contemporary men and women deal with the repercussions of Rois Melior’s dealings with the fey-folk.


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The Bell at Sealey Head: Perfect introduction to McKillip

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip

Patricia McKillip’s latest novel takes us to the little fishing village of Sealey Head; tiny and inconsequential, and dominated by four influential families: the Cauleys (father and son innkeepers), the Blairs (a large family of merchants), the Sproules (rich farmers who have gained some degree of nobility) and the Aislinns (living in the crumbling manor house). Actually, there’s only one Aislinn now: old Lady Eglantyne, who lies dreaming in her bedchamber, waited on by a host of servants. The extensive cast of characters have interconnecting friendships,


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The Bards of Bone Plain: Celebrates the power of music, language, and love

The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia McKillip

In This Land, the Bards Have Forgotten Their Magic…

Patricia McKillip does it again! Unique among fantasy writers for her dreamy prose, her ability to meld complex characterization with original fairytale plots, and her ability to slip in a clever twist or two before the story’s end, McKillip returns to form after the slightly lackluster The Bell at Sealey Head (great build-up, terrible climax) with The Bards of Bone Plain.


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Wonders of the Invisible World: Intoxicatingly beautiful fragments

Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia McKillip

I love Patricia McKillip’s writing, and was excited to hear she had a short story collection coming out. I really enjoy reading short stories because I think it’s a good measure of what a writer can do – distill down the essential elements of story to a concentrated core of who they are as a writer.

Upon opening the collection I was slightly disappointed to realize that these were all stories that had been previously published, many of which I had read before.


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Kingfisher: A Camelot-type court in the modern era

Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

Knights dress in black and ride motorcycles, sorcerers and sorceresses run restaurants, and maybe your grandpa isn’t actually crazy. Such is the world in which Patricia A. McKillip’s Kingfisher takes place. Though it may begin with a deceivingly simple quest of a young man looking for his long-lost father, Kingfisher becomes much more than that very quickly. It ends up following the stories of four young people as they navigate their changing worlds and values as well as deftly interweaving their lives in surprisingly satisfying ways.


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Dreams of Distant Shores: A treasure box of stories

Dreams of Distant Shores by Patricia McKillip

Dreams of Distant Shores is a collection of seven shorter fantasy works ― five short stories and two novellas ― and a non-fictional essay by one of my favorite fantasy authors, Patricia McKillip. Several of these works are reprints of stories originally published elsewhere; “Mer,” “Edith and Henry Go Motoring” and “Alien” are the only ones original to this collection, but since I had never seen any of these stories elsewhere, they were all doorways to new and enchanting worlds for me.


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The Green Man: Read it slowly

The Green Man edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

In fairy tales, whenever someone journeys into the forest, you just know something strange is about to occur and that the protagonist’s life is going to be changed forever. The same is true of the stories and poems featured in The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest. With this collection, editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling kicked off a series of young adult anthologies, each devoted to a particular theme. Here, the theme is wild nature,


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Wings of Fire: I thought I didn’t like dragons

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon

I don’t like dragons.

This is probably not the first sentence you’d expect to find in a review of Wings of Fire, an anthology devoted exclusively to dragon stories, but I thought it best to get it out of the way right from the start.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with dragons. They’re just terribly overused, one of those tired genre mainstays that people who typically don’t read a lot of fantasy will expect in a fantasy novel because they were practically unavoidable for a long time.


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The Secret History of Fantasy: Stories that redefine the genre

The Secret History of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle

The basic premise of the SECRET HISTORY anthologies (there’s also a science fiction one, The Secret History of Science Fiction, which I haven’t read) is that there’s a type of writing that got missed or buried because other things were more popular, more commercial, or dodged the spec-fic labeling. Certainly that’s the thrust of Peter S. Beagle‘s introduction, and the two other non-fiction pieces by Ursula K. Le Guin and editor David G.


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Next SFF Author: K.M. McKinley
Previous SFF Author: Dennis L. McKiernan

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