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The Tower at Stony Wood
Patricia A. McKillip
Ace Books, 294 pages


Kinuko Y. Craft
The Tower at Stony Wood
Patricia A. McKillip
Patricia McKillip started writing as a teenager. Her interest in writing fantasy blossomed after reading Lord of the Rings. She is the winner of the World Fantasy Award, and author of many fantasy novels, including The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, The Riddlemaster of Hed, The Sorceress and the Cygnet, and The Cygnet and the Firebird. Her most recent novels are Winter Rose, The Book of Atrix Wolf and Song for the Basilisk. She lives in Roxbury, New York.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy
SF Site Review: Song for the Basilisk
Patricia McKillip Tribute Site
Newsgroup: Patricia McKillip

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Margo MacDonald

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The Tower at Stony Wood is a tricky sort of book. It reads like dreaming, with images and elements sometimes blending together, sometimes pulling apart. There are moments when everything is clear, and moments when you realize you have not understood what exactly has just happened.

It starts traditionally enough, when a renowned knight, Sir Cyan Dag, is given a dark warning by a far-seeing bard that the new queen is not what she appears -- namely human. He immediately races off on a quest to rescue the true queen from her tower prision and gets tangled up in a number of scrapes and adventures along the way. But there is more than one quest taking place in the book. There is also the disgtuntled, conquered, young Lord looking to restore wealth and power to his poor kingdom; there is an old woman whose true self is in hiding; there is the lost magic of the different lands looking for a way to seep back into being.

The book is filled with beautiful ideas and images, but the style of the storytelling seems somewhat experimental for McKillip. It's hard to put a finger on exactly, but at some levels, this book just doesn't work. Thinking back on the story afterwards, what comes to mind are certain moments of powerful imagery: the Queen's feet flashing scaly green as she dances, the sad face of the trapped woman seen in the mirror, the dragon's soul discovered to be filled with gold. But while being read, the story struggles beneath odd syntax, moments of confusion, and an overall rushed feeling. The result is that the reader has little opportunity to become well-acquainted or attached to any of the characters and may find it necessary to re-read certain passages in order to be sure they've understood what just happened.

So, as I began by saying, this book reads like a dream. Sometimes the dream is wonderful and pleasant (or dark and menacing), but at other times it is a mumble of jumbled words and images that jolt you from your reverie by their very oddness.

There is no argument that Patricia A. McKillip is one of the best writers the genre has to offer, and she is one of my personal favourites from way back, but there also is no comparing this book to some of her previous works (e.g. The Riddle-Master trilogy and Song for the Basilisk) without feeling disappointed.

Copyright © 2000 by Margo MacDonald

Margo has always been drawn toward fantasy and, at the age of 5, decided to fill her life with it by pursuing a career as a professional actress. Aside from theatre (and her husband), Margo's passion has been for books. Her interests are diverse and eclectic, but the bulk fall within the realm of speculative fiction. She tells us that her backlog has reached 200 books and she's ready to win the lottery and retire.


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