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Book 6 for 2010

Winter Rose By Patricia McKillip. 264 pages

At last, a book I can enthuse about unreservedly! The story here is fairly slight - Corbet Lynn returns to his ancestral home to reclaim his house and fields, bringing with him nebulous tales of parricide and curses. Only Rois Meillor, daughter of a local farmer, who loves to wander the wild woods, sees him arrive, and from that moment she and her father and sister are drawn into the mystery that surrounds him.

But paucity of plot  doesn't really matter, because  the prose is wonderful - beautiful, lyrical and rich. This book is crafted expertly, like a piece of hand-carved furniture, as this passage from the beginning of Chapter 4 illustrates :-

"Summer ended between one breath and another, it seemed. One morning the first golden leaves appeared among the green. Then a tree flamed into crimson. The fields were stubbled gold, morning mists hanging over them, burned away slowly by the sun. Hot,  blue summer sky slowly turned the deeper blue of autumn, as if it reflected, from another country,cold northern lakes and storms that did not touch us yet."

The writing is so skillful that I was nearly halfway through the book before I realised that it's essentially a retelling of the story of Tam Lyn, but it's an very well done one, with a dreamy, otherworldly atmosphere, so that the reader, like Rois, is not always sure what is real and what's a dream.

I wasn't sure if I'd like this book - McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy, which many people rave about left me wondering what all the fuss was about. I much preferred her The Forgotten Beasts of EldWinter Rose isn't much like either of them, but it's very good indeed. If you like fantasy, retellings of fairy tales and a well-turned poetic phrase, then I strongly recommend this book to you.
Tags: fantasy
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