Another archival review. But I still stand by it. This is a fantastic book. It's also notable for having one of the few love triangles (love quadrangles, actually) which I actually liked. She even picked my favorite, which usually doesn't happen.

Peri, a young woman whose fisherman father drowned, casts a spell against the sea, calling forth a monster… and a Prince.

A magical, moving, and completely original story, peopled with quirkily charming characters. Unlike most fantasy novels, this isn’t about wielding swords and spells to save the world, but about the power and wonder of both magic and human relationships. Peri is a likable, offbeat heroine, and the choice she makes regarding the three men who come into her life, the magician, the prince, and the sea dragon, is believable and heartwarming.

All the characters, even the most minor ones, have their own lives and agendas, bringing to life the vividly imagined setting of a fishing village on the edge of enchantment. Dialogue is sometimes poetic, sometimes funny, but always well-phrased. The balance in this book between the little moments of daily life and the beauty of magic and feeling reminded me of books like The Secret Garden.

It's one Patricia McKillip's more obscure novels, but also one of her best.

The Changeling Sea
Archival review.

An ageless girl named Brown Hannah speaks to wild animals, but neither she nor they can remember anything of their past. She lives in Tanglewood, in thrall to a wizard who forces her to pluck the flowers that bloom in her hair and brew them into a tea that he drinks to increase his powers. When she falls in love with one of the many enchanted knights who come questing to Tanglewood, she defies the wizard and goes on a quest seek out the mystery of his past. But as she changes with the seasons and the barren earth blossoms wherever she steps, she finds that the greatest wonder and mystery of all is her own self.

An unusual, gorgeously written novel, suffused with a dreamlike, fairy-tale beauty. But it's so dreamlike that the characters don't feel quite real, and the true identity of Brown Hannah and the mysterious treasure of Tanglewood are quite obvious. Lovely prose and imagery, though.

I wonder what Pierce is doing nowadays. She hasn't published anything in quite a while.

My favorites of hers, which have all the dreamlike wonder of this one but with better-developed characters, are The Darkangel (hey! only $3.20 on Amazon) and A Gathering of Gargoyles, the sequel which I like even more. They're set on the moon, but a moon transformed into a fairytale landscape, and are very mythic and Jungian, the sort of fantasy where things happen by symbolic and emotional logic rather than by set rules. (This is true of Tanglewood as well, but I think it works better in the Darkangel series.) I don't recommend the third book in the series.

I recall loving her unicorn book, Birth of the Firebringer, but I haven't re-read it in years and years.

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