cover image The Tower at Stony Wood

The Tower at Stony Wood

Patricia A. McKillip. Ace Books, $22.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00733-2

Like her previous Winter Rose and Song for the Basilisk, McKillip's latest bardic fantasy, a tale full of fierce longing and bright courage, the mystery of honor and the enigmas of love, issues comes out of the Celtic twilight at the edge of the unknown. When the ravishing Lady Gwynne from the magic realm of Skye comes to wed Regis Aurum, king of prosaic Yves, only Cyan Dag, Regis's most powerful knight, can heed an eerie warning from the ancient Bard of Skye: this Gwynne is a sorcerous reptilian imposter who holds the real Gwynne captive in a faraway tower. Sworn to protect the king whose life he has already saved once in battle against the North Islanders of Ysse, Cyan leaves his own fair lady, Cria, and follows his duty to free the true queen and preserve his warlike lord from treachery. In the misty land of Skye, Cyan soon finds nothing is as it seems. Skye's bards can hear the moon sing; Cyan's former enemy Thayne Ysse buries himself in the heart of a dragon to save his own people; and by piecing her own simple life together like a selkie skin, the humble baker Sel rescues her whole world--and Cyan Dag's. Richly intoxicating with the mythic Otherworld of the old Celts, McKillip's iridescent prose cloaks a simple quest with effervescing images and tantalizing, shifting arpeggios of shapes, as a Celtic triple goddess spins and weaves Cyan Dag's fate. By showing that out of her hero's forgotten gesture of mercy in battle long ago came hope, compassion, peace, McKillip concurs with the poet Rilke that perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something that needs our love. (May)