The newest novel from the World Fantasy Award-winning author of The Bell at Sealey Head. With "her exquisite grasp of the fantasist's craft" (Publishers Weekly), Patricia A. McKillip now invites readers to discover a place that may only exist in the mystical wisdom of poetry and music.
Scholar Phelan Cle is researching Bone Plain - which has been studied for the last 500 years, though no one has been able to locate it as a real place. Archaeologist Jonah Cle, Phelan's father, is also hunting through time, piecing history together from forgotten trinkets. His most eager disciple is Princess Beatrice, the king's youngest daughter. When they unearth a disk marked with ancient runes, Beatrice pursues the secrets of a lost language that she suddenly notices all around her, hidden in plain sight.
Veteran fantasy novelist Patricia A. McKillip crafts another rich, complex world in The Bards of Bone Plain, and narrators Marc Vietor and Charlotte Parry do a wonderful job of bringing it to life. Vietor and Parry make everything in Bone Plain, including the arcane and/or completely made-up words and character names, sound natural and inviting, like a tune you can easily pick up just by listening to a few bars. It helps that McKillip is focused on character over elaborate mythology, painting vivid pictures of the people of Caerau, an ancient city that’s home to the pre-eminent school for bards. There Phelan Cle is completing his studies by putting together the bardic version of a dissertation, and McKillip has a little fun with the notion of graduate school drudgery in a fantasy world.
Phelan’s subject is the ancient bard Nairn, and the novel switches between the present and the past, chronicling Nairn’s long-ago adventures mostly as Phelan discovers more about them. McKillip crafts a range of memorable characters, including Phelan’s cranky but mysterious father Jonah; the kingdom’s tomboy-ish princess, Beatrice; and Declan, Nairn’s mentor and keeper of mystical bardic secrets that hold far more power than merely producing sweet music. Unlike many fantasy novels, Bone Plain doesn’t have the manufactured urgency of a quest or a war to propel it along; instead it plays out more like a fable, with the characters coming to significant but low-key revelations as the story progresses.
Vietor reads the bulk of the book with a friendly but authoritative tone, easily differentiating between characters without resorting to silly fantasy-world voices. Whenever McKillip switches to a short excerpt from Phelan’s research (mostly to open chapters about Nairn), Parry takes over in her mellifluous British accent, offering a nice change of pace and a simple way to delineate one style from another. The simple, elegant approach to narration matches McKillip’s writing style, making for a story that’s as lovely to listen to as it is to experience. Josh Bell
"The Bards of Bone Plain is another McKillip novel that leaves the reader in awe. It’s a gorgeous story that celebrates the power of music, language, and love." (FantasyLiterature.com)
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The Bards of Bone Plain
The power of music, language, and love
- Katherine "I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!"