I'm a big fan of Patricia McKillip's, and have almost all her books in hardcover (including, says she in a bibliophilic gloat, the first edition of The Throme of the Erril of Sherril). My love and loyalty for her is based mostly on the fact that her Riddle Master trilogy is one of my desert island books, and that I've never actively disliked any of her books. As written here, not long ago, I loved her previous fantasy,Od Magic. This one... left me pretty cold, though again I didn't actively dislike it. It's one of only a few of her works to be set in the "real," contemporary world (the others I think are her very early juveniles The House on Parchment Street and The Night Gift, and Stepping From the Shadows). The concept is quite engaging, though hardly original - young woman returns home for grandfather's funeral to find family, home and neighbours embroiled with the world of faery, with which neighbourhood apparently intersects. Gram runs a sewing circle, which is more than it seems (an idea introduced first, I believe, in a short story). This aspect was interesting and should have been more developed. The whole novel should have been more developed - McKillip uses alternating points of view which become frustrating because a) you never really get to know any of the characters and b) she doesn't really do them very well. They all "sound" the same - like McKillip, very poetic and lovely - with the possible exception of Gram, but the overall effect doesn't enhance the book at all. At least the book has a plot, unlike some of her more inaccessible pure fantasies, and the plot moves along nicely and comes to a satisfying conclusion, but it's all rather too neat and pat and one finds oneself wondering what all the fuss was about. Which is a shame, because her writing, as always, is poetic and lovely, but poetic and lovely writing on its own without interesting characters or a strong driving theme or point leaves the reader feeling as if she's been eating merangues - all style and no substance.
I enjoyed this a lot. Patricia McKillip is a writer whom I admire immensely, and always buy immediately in hardcover, but her books, though poetic and as beautiful as the covers by Kinuko Craft, are sometimes strangely inaccessible. It seems a bit odd, therefore, that I've been so loyal to her over the years as I have - other authors have been relegated to the "buy in paperback" or even the "get from library" list, but not McKillip. Her latest novels have been gettimg more and more plot driven, and more kind of "in the moment"; it's hard to explain what I mean if you haven't read her work, but her books are often so dreamlike and almost surreal that, though beautiful, they are hard to get hold of. Her characters have seemed more ciphers than real people, and it has been hard sometimes to work out what, if anything some of her books (say, Atrix Wolf) have been, exactly, "about"... But Od Magic was lovely. I suppose some might say that one of the reasons I liked it so much is that it is essentially a revisiting of the Riddle Master books in many ways, and I've always been waiting for another book like that one. But I found myself reluctant to finish this one, and that's always one of the best things I can say about a reading experience.