By the vow of her father and her own desire, Raederle was pledged to Morgon, Riddle-Master of Hed. But a year had passed since Morgon disappeared on his search for the High One at Erlenstar Mountain, and rumors claimed he was dead.
Raederle set out to learn the truth for herself, though her small gift of magic seemed too slight for the perils she must face. The quest led through strange lands and dangerous adventures. Only her growing powers enabled her at last to reach Erlenstar Mountain. And there she discovered what she could not bear to accept.
Accompanied by Deth, the High One's Harper, she fled. And behind them came a pursuer whose name was Morgon, bent on executing a grim destiny upon Raederle and Deth.
Her only hope lay in summoning the Hosts of the Dead, led by the King whose skull she bore...
Okay, so first, the book jacket is false. Ignore it and trust my review: this book is awesomesauce! When I read the first book in this series, The Riddle-Master of Hed, I was underwhelmed. The world-building happened super fast, and I could barely keep up with what was going on. This time around, I had a much better understanding of the various countries and magic philosophies, so I could let myself get caught up in the story rather than constantly wondering what was going on.
It helps that Raederle is so amazing I'm actually considering naming a child after her. She is right up there with Eowyn in terms of super cool girl fantasy characters. Raederle is powerful, but scared of her power. She worries that her nature will overshadow her upbringing. She is told to stay home and get married off to someone now that Morgon is presumably dead, but instead she runs away and embarks on a quest of her own.
There are shape-shifters, illusions, life at sea, wizards come back to life from trees and pig-herdesses. The magic in this trilogy is so fun! And McKillip has great wit, a lot of which comes from the names she gives her characters--people seeking to kill Deth, for instance--and countries--no one likes the kings of Hel. This is a great fantasy for people who don't want to invest in an 800-page tome.
And Raederle and Morgon? Are um, super adorable. I didn't realize how much I shipped them until they were suddenly in the same room together, and then I did mental cartwheels and high fives at their awesomeness. This is romance at its best--two strong characters who can stand on their own, but who are even stronger together. I can't wait to see what is in store for them in the finale book of McKillip's trilogy!
Five out of five puddle/lakes.
Release Date: August 1977
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.