Ah. Patricia A. McKillip. The name sends shivers down my spine and raises goosebumps on my arms — literally. It is a herald to all things truly, deeply, madly magical — and that herald is crying ‘read this, follow me, take my hand! I will show you something wonderful’.
And she does.
I have loved, adored, admired, envied, gasped, and cried over Patricia A. McKillip for seemingly as many years as I have been reading. Each new book she publishes, I seek out like the bards, magicians, and hapless heroes and heroines of her stories seek out their truths and mysteries. Reading her books are exactly, for me, like the experiences her characters work their ways through. I cannot recommend picking up one of her novels enough. That is not an overstatement, and I am not attempting in any way to behave sensationally. I really, truly, simply mean it. Please read something she’s written. I don’t even mind which one, for although I have a personal favourite or two in mine, they are all as good as each other.
So what can I say in particular about The Bards of Bone Plain, now that I have made my biases very clear? It is difficult to write anything but an over-the-top, yet mysteriously vague review. Read it, read it, read it.
The closest I have come in the written word to true magic has come from McKillip’s writing. I read this book until very late at night, forced to stop around 4am by external coaxing, and picked it up again on a bus, impatient and hopelessly caught in the tale. Forced again to put it down again, and finally finished it today. Although I thought, at some point, that I had figured out the secrets of the story, a few well-placed twists sent me spirally into confusion and wonder again. The story is built in layers, parallel stories of the distant past of legend, and the present-day characters, as a few of McKillip’s other novels have done (see The Alphabet of Thorn), but even so, even have read many of her novels before, I was still gripping the book unable to pull away from it, still struck by surprise when another layer of secrecy was finally lifted, revealing another tantalising piece of information.
If you have any passing interest in magic or fantasy, or fairytale, legend, music, riddles, mysteries, secrets, or humour, suspense, darkness, or light, I believe you will enjoy this book. Her words are like jewels — that has been said before — and they are as magical and enchanting as the subject matter she writes about with such enviable ease. I have felt a full range of emotional toil over this book, and its spell cast over me has left me in a wondrous, wondering state long after finishing it. I cannot wait until I can step back into another of her worlds.