I finished reading my first Christmas book today. The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip. Despite the fact that she writes fantasy aimed at a mainly female audience she remains one of my favorite fantasy authors.
The Changeling Sea is a shorter story, 136 pp in paperback form, but its briefness does not make the story any less effective. I guess the book could be aimed at young teenage girls since the main character, Periwinkle, is a fifteen year old fisherman’s daughter who seems quite alone and ungainly, her mother doesn’t care for her, her appearance is made fun of an all that. Anyway, she hexes the sea and that is when things get rolling. She runs into the changeling sons of the king and a roguish magician as well.
What I like best about this book is what I like best about everything that McKillip writes. She talks near things but not about them. So while danger is present there is no violence, while love is described, it isn’t romance. But maybe that is a bit off, for many of her books can be quite Romanticish. Perhaps it is better to say that the characters don’t seem to have danger or romance or violence or love as their goal. All her characters seem to be seeking a variety of wisdom that might manifest itself dangerously or lovely. It is hard to pin down her books, at least for me, because they are fey. Feyly written but indomitable. The stories and characters and forces are all solid and seamless together. So I never fear for characters or even really start reading the story from within it. Maybe this is because I find it hard to be the female protagonists. Never until the end do I ever finally feel the emotion, but it comes strong at that point.
Her prose is more like poetry and her imagery and natural magic [oxymoron!] are unparalleled. It also rocks that she doesn’t write ubertrilogies like so much crap fantasy appears in. Any of her books are worth a read, but The Changeling Sea would be a good one to whet your appetite if you’ve not encountered her before.