As is the case with most of Patricia McKillip’s novels, I picked this one up because I was intrigued by the cover art and the premise sounded interesting – like a mix of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” and Swan Lake.

In actuality, the story quickly moved away from what I thought it would be and into its own story. Readers get three different seemingly unconnected story lines that don’t really begin to intersect until the end. For most of the book, the reader is left wondering what these characters have to do with each other and what the actual quest is.

As always, McKillip’s language is beautiful. Ethereal and dreamy, it really gives the sense of magic and half-forgotten secrets. It’s obvious that each sentence is crafted with care. Everything from the words themselves, to the rhythm of the syllables and the sentence construction contributes to the overall feeling of the scene and adds to the dreamlike effect.

Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed reading her words, the beautiful dreamlike quality that McKillip created made it hard to follow the action at times. There are a few scenes that I had to read multiple times, and I still only have a blurred understanding at best of what she was trying to  convey. Since I’m assuming that her end goal was to tell a story, my being unable to follow all of it is a problem, however, the feeling and atmosphere that her writing creates are perfect for the story that she tells.

In the end, all the stories connect, albeit in a bit of a rushed manner. And I will admit to some disappointment in the ending plot twist. Still, the book was pretty solid overall. I don’t think I’ll buy it, but I will look at other stories that she’s written. I’ve heard especially good things about Bards of the Bone Plain. I think that will be the next one I check out from the library.