My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s just adorable. It’s 64 pages of one-off’s, a cartoon strip imagining Darth Vader raising Luke (who’s wearing his “A New Hope” outfit. It’s nothing more deep than watching Darth doing normal dad things (and occasionally downplaying his own evil) while Luke is your typical four year old. It’s cute. It’s sweet and it’s fun. It’s even a bit funny (Like Darth watching Luke lying about need to potty while doing the potty dance). It made me want to go look up Jeffrey Brown’s website to see what else he’s done.
View all my reviews
The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a McKillip book. No particular reason other than I’ve been reading more mystery than fantasy in these latter years. This one is a good solid read on one hand and on the other it had some real issues world building wise. I would have liked ALL the characters to be better developed than they were. Oddly enough Princess Beatrice and Nairn (less odd) seemed the best drawn.
The story really doesn’t have much of a plot. Phelan Cle has to research his thesis for the bardic school he works at and studies at. That’s really it. And if you’re thinking the only thing more boring than writing a research paper is reading about someone researching theirs, well I echoed that. And that’s part of the world building issues. Phelan decides to write something ‘easy’ that’s been done before because he doesn’t want to write the paper and yet comes up with something brilliant and solves a millennium long mystery. Hmmm okay then. I had issues believing that a popular topic like this seemed to be so poorly researched for centuries when Phelan didn’t have to do much more than go to the archives in the tower. Of course he has some help with his friend and fellow bard, Zoe since her father is the one who controls the archives.
The story flip flops every chapter between Phelan and Zoe along with Princess Beatrice who would rather spend her time in archeological digs with Phelan’s drunk father, Jonas, than be at court and with the past following the life of Nairn the Wanderer, Nairn the Unforgiven. It doesn’t take long to realize that each past history chapter starts with a narrative from Phelan’s paper. And that’s literally all it is up to about half way.
Then in comes Kelda, a handsome young bard who innocently asks the King’s Bard Quennel if he’s ready to retire. When Quennel mysteriously chokes on his food and nearly dies, the old bard retires and Kelda gets what he wants: bardic competition to find the new king’s bard. Jonas and later his son, do not believe it was an accident. They believe Kelda used magic to force Quennel’s retirement. More curious just as Beatrice comes up with an emblem covered in strange ancient writing, Kelda blows into town knowing how to speak that magical language.
As the competition draws near, Phelan is sure Kelda means something malignant and the reader sees the parallels drawn between Nairn and a magical bard who also came out of nowhere, Welkin, just before the school’s tower collapses and Nairn disappears, some believing him dead, others believing him cursed to walk the earth forever. I figured out the big twist (It wasn’t really that hard) but the ending was oddly far more benign than I expected after how menacing Kelda/Welkin appear in both timelines.
Overall, I liked it. It could have used some editing where Kelda was accidentally used in the past timeline and where it got too dream-like and you’re wondering what happened. And in places where it’s obvious McKillip is too in love with harps.
But what bothered me was some of the world building weirdness. Yes Nairn’s storyline is centuries before so progress shouldn’t be a surprise. And yet, other than two startling incidents where there is a CAR and one with a battery-operated flashlight, I had no idea this still wasn’t a medieval setting. Again, Nairn’s story reminded me of Thomas the Rhymer or Taliesin to the point I could tap on a passage and go ‘I see what you did there, author.’ So I had trouble believing that not a single person has made the research efforts Phelan did. I also had trouble with Quennel. I think it would have worked better had he died. All the fear and tension in this would end if he just changed him mind about retiring. I think we’re supposed to think he’s afraid for his life but that fails to come across in the writing, sadly.
View all my reviews