December 4th, 2014

Macbeth the Usurper

Harpist In The Wind (Review) (Top Fantasy Novels of the 1970s)

Harpist in the Wind (1979) is the last of the Riddle_Master trilogy by Patricia McKillip. In this book, Morgon discovers more about his world and realizes his final DESTINY. This book won the Locus award for best fantasy novel, and also received Hugo and World Fantasy Award nominations.

Yeah, whatever. The moment that I hit the character of Morgon, I wanted him the hell off stage. I wanted Raederle back. Every issue that I had with Morgon came back, and this time, they came back with power-ups. Meanwhile, Raederle was patted on the head and received an also-ran.

I must confess that I skimmed over most of this novel. I skipped vast swaths of description.

To McKillip's credit, she's a good describer. When that woman is on, she is on. Her descriptions just flow across the pages and you can just drift along with them. For readers that like this style, the descriptions must be grand. Not so much for me. I found them somewhat useless. However, her great discriptivey-descriptions did prevent her from falling into any technobabble traps as magic was seen entirely from the experiential point of view.

To say the the entire point of this novel is to say, "Oh-mi-Gawd! I have to finish this series in one book!" would be the most accurate summation of the book that I can present. Everything that was hanging around unsaid in the previous two books had to all get said and explored in this one book, giving this book and overstuffed feeling. You eat the world too fast, getting no chance to digest it. We are at the buffet of fantasy building and the author only gets to fill one plate, so she heaps it on.

There's a big battle at the end, of course, not that it mattered, because the battle doesn't even matter. It's just all that trope. We could have just skipped that battle and had a more interesting ending.

Especially in this last book, I just don't buy McKillips world. "Miners and farmers and her animals, oh my!" We hear about unrest, rebels, armies gathering, people gathering ancient cities, and I am struck by the sheer uselessness of humanity. Really? That's all that people can think to get up to? Eight hundred years of history and no militia? I am at a total loss.

My wife gets this book on a meta-level that I don't. For me, it just falls flat. Even with an explanation of the meta-level, it still falls flat. Judging by reviews over on Goodreads, this is a very loved book, so I'll just hang my hat onto the minority opinion and be done with it.