Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Patricia A. McKillip wrote some of the best fantasy novels of the 1970s, including The Forgotten Beast of Eld (1974), and the three volumes of the Riddle-Master trilogy, The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), Heir of Sea and Fire (1977), and Harpist in the Wind (1979). Beginning in the 1980s, she began writing novels with smaller scopes and smaller plots. They are well-written, and they hold a reader’s interest and attention, but something is missing. The books are so gossamer-like and ephemeral that a day or so after reading one the memory holds very little of what it was about. There remains only a half-lingering aura of modest enjoyment. I haven’t read all of McKillip’s novels, but this is true for most of the post-1980 ones I’ve read. Solstice Wood (2006) is one of these, telling of a small town in upstate New York where some families protect their locale from incursions from the fairy world. Or so they believe. Long-standing beliefs are challenged after the death of one of the elders brings back to the town a woman who had fled years ago, fearing the secrets that are now all unraveling. Again, it’s an enjoyable read, but one really hopes for something more from a book like this.