A sad, but often inevitable, truth is the passing of a good book. Some books, like Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and all of Shakespeare’s plays obtain immortality, iremaining in print until the end of time, while others fall away into obscurity. Too many good books are lost from the upcoming generation this way, but thanks to advances in technology literary death is becoming less common as books are now easily purchased and read online no longer requiring publishing companies to produce mass volumes at high expense. Thus we see the decline in lost and forgotten books like The Riddle Master Trilogy.
Morgon, Prince of Hed and a gifted student of the Riddle Master College, is a product of destiny. Unfortunately for destiny, Morgon has no desire to seek his fortune and would much rather work the land of his home than travel the world. But his destiny is not easily avoided. Thrust into a world he doesn’t know, with forces both known and unknown seeking to kill him, Morgon must follow one riddle to another in pursuit of his destiny that was bestowed upon him from birth in the shape of three stars imprinted on his forehead. Three stars that are prophesied to bring great change to the world as everyone knows it.
The feel of The Riddle Master Trilogy is reminiscent of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Simple words used to create beautiful and stunning imagery and narrative that captures the mind and enslaves the imagination. While reading, I was so impressed at the way Patricia McKillip could move so quickly from one scene to the next without being rough or rushed. It would surprise me every time it happened, and on multiple occasions I would stop and examine the transition. She made it feel so natural that no matter how many times I thought it would be choppy it never was.
The story aside, her form and style were remarkable to read. With the trending style of today’s writing focused on description and detail, it’s so rare to find writing like McKillip’s in any modern work. The story could easily have been a long series similar to The Wheel of Time; instead, all three books are less than 600 pages together. The result is a story that flows like water and tastes like magic.
I loved this trilogy, but it may not be for everyone. It is, as I mentioned, styled very differently from what authors generally write today. This is not a character driven book. The aspect of destiny plays a very strong part and sometimes seems to be directing the characters. As a result I didn’t get really close to them. I learned to love the characters as I read, but I didn’t have that same level of closeness that I’ve had with other books. I enjoyed it in it’s own way, but other people (my wife for one) may have a hard time getting into it because they require that strong connection with the characters in order to remain invested.
As for The Riddle Master Trilogy’s residence on the edge of lost fantasy, I think it needs a comeback. After reading it I think it sure deserves one. People don’t write like McKillip anymore and it’s a loss for the literary world in my opinion. She wrote a story that was meant to be spoken, to be read outloud, and to have all the names horribly mispronounced (with the exception of Deth and Morgon, those are easy enough, but try and pronounce Ghisteslewchlohm and your tongue will tie itself in knots). It took me a while to make time to read it after my mom gave it stunning marks, but better late than never. And for all you fantasy lovers out there, this book deserves a chance on your reading lists. Maybe you won’t like it, but hey, it never hurts to try. Who knows, maybe it’ll become a new friend.