I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip
Published: 2016 by Ace
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Patricia McKillip has long been one of my favorite authors, and when I heard about Kingfisher, I knew I had to read it. McKillip creates ethereal and breathtaking works of art, and I expected Kingfisher to be exquisite. However, this novel doesn’t live up to her earlier stories. It’s not that Kingfisher is bad, per se, but rather that it lacks focus.
The story begins with Pierce Oliver. Pierce’s mother is a sorceress, and she’s hidden his sleepy New England-esque town from the rest of the world using a glamour. Pierce’s father left when he was just a baby, and one day, Pierce feels the need to find him. He sets off on a soul-seeking quest, leaving his rural abode and traveling to the city of Severluna.
Meanwhile, the King has called upon his knights to embark upon a quest to find an ancient vessel. And so they pull up their motorcycles and begin traveling up the coast, drudging up ancient magic and long-kept secrets. In that process, we meet a lot of side characters, each of whom plays a part in the larger story. But the characters aren’t really connected to each other until the very end of the book when the story begins to come to a cohesive whole, and so for much of Kingfisher, I felt myself wondering why I should care about some of the characters who felt not only minor but tangential.
The setting of Kingfisher is a blend of the mythical and modern, but without any sort of initial worldbuilding, the juxtaposition leaves readers with a sense of dreamlike unease. It takes a long time to learn enough about the world to begin to understand it, and equally as long to realize how the characters are connected. There wasn’t any kind of anchor for readers to grab onto, and so for most of the book, I felt completely lost.
But setting aside the disjointed nature of Kingfisher, there were several things that I did appreciate. I enjoyed the ritual Friday Night Fish Fry at the Kingfisher Inn, and the camaraderie between the kitchen staff and the guests. In fact, the Kingfisher Inn was the only place in the entire book that I felt like I’d truly enjoy stepping into. And I enjoyed Merle, a secretive shapechanging wolf who frequents the Kingfisher, and whom everyone there seems to accept exactly for who and what he is. Kingfisher was also permeated with Arthurian references and Easter eggs, which made me happy because I had a bit of an obsession with King Arthur as a teenager. In fact, many of the individual elements of Kingfisher were fantastic, it’s just that with so many disparate elements combined, the story felt as if it couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be.