cover image Cygnet and Firebird

Cygnet and Firebird

Patricia A. McKillip. Ace Books, $17.95 (233pp) ISBN 978-0-441-12628-6

In this adequate but lackluster follow-up to The Sorceress and the Cygnet , McKillip returns to the magical towers of Ro Holding, the Hold of the Cygnet, and its denizens: the formidable Holder, Lauro Ro; her enigmatic daughter and heir, the sorceress Nyx; and Lauro's warrior niece, Meguet Vervaine. Two mysterious arrivals threaten the normal course of Ro Holding: one is a wily, powerful mage bent on stealing a treasure hidden in the castle for centuries; the other is a firebird whose anguished cries transform things and people into precious objects, and who metamorphoses into a tormented young man for a few hours each evening. Thwarted by Nyx in his attempt to get the treasure, the mage abducts Meguet. Nyx's search for her cousin takes her across a distant, dragon-haunted desert to the court of a ruthless sorcerer-king, where she and Meguet learn of a threat to destroy Ro Holding. The often tedious plot has too much pursuit and discussion, and not enough direct conflict and dramatic tension. Despite an atmospheric setting, intriguing characters and some interesting magical ideas, this sequel lacks the vitality of its predecessor. (Sept.)