“The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia A. McKillip

“The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia A. McKillipThe Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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This is my fourth book for the Once Upon a Time V challenge.  After reading several excellent blog reviews about Patricia McKillip’s “Winter Rose,” I came across this at a used book sale.  It is one of McKillip’s earlier books, and the edition I picked up came complete with 1970s cover art.

Although “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” is a fantasy novel, it reads a bit more like a long fairy tale.  Sybel is a young wizard who lives in the mountains and tames mythical beasts.  Yes, she’s a female wizard, not a witch.  She lives a life of solitude that is interrupted when Corren shows up with a kid, asking her to raise it and keep it safe.  This leads her to far greater adventures that take her away from her mountain home.

When I first started college, I was socially awkward.  No, socially awkward is an understatement.  However, Sybel at the start of the novel makes my old self look quite outgoing by comparison.  To me, the novel was about an outsider learning how to fit into the world and learning how to deal with human emotion.  Sybel has to learn the hard way how to love, how to hate, and how to face her own inner demons.

I like how McKillip managed to take the idea of learning how to love and how to feel and describing it without being overly preachy or moralistic.  She does it in a way that feels very natural and flows with the story.  When I finished, my thought was “Awww…. how cute!”

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5 comments

  1. I’m glad you liked it. All McKillips novels read like fairy tales.

    Skye, I would start with this one. Winter Rose is very special and not everyone likes it. You can find a review at my blog.

  2. I’ve ready almost all of Patricia A. McKillip’s books by now except “The Night Gift” and “Stepping From the Shadow” which are out of print. “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” was one of the last books I read by her. It was only her third novel, and I’ve heard McKillip herself is uneasy when people tell her it’s her best work because writers want to know they’ve improved. Well, not to disappoint her, but I too think it’s her best work, hands down. It’s a surprisingly bold work for a young adult book, delving into serious subject matter such as assault, even if it’s not overtly stated and given distance through a fantasy context. Unlike Robin McKinley’s Deerskin (which I love by the way), I did NOT see that one coming in Forgotten Beasts of Eld and…well, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. This is the kind of empowering feminist fantasy I wish would be more prevalent, and one of the most original I’ve ever read both in YA and adult fantasy. I don’t care that it’s considered “old” by now. The classics like this book and Le Guin’s Earthsea make me happier than any of the formulaic stuff I see on the shelves today.

    1. And McKillip’s writing has that lyrical, ethereal quality to it. I haven’t read anything by her that I haven’t loved. Which others by her do you recommend most?