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The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A.…

The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976)

by Patricia A. McKillip

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Riddle-Master Trilogy (1)

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English (31)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (33)
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Title: The Riddlemaster of Hed
Series: Riddlemaster #1
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 229
Format: Digital Edition


Morgan, King of Hed, reveals, unwittingly, that he has beaten a ghost hundreds of years old at a game of Riddles and won a legendary crown, and possibly the hand of a princess. Unfortunately, this sets him on the trail of a riddle of himself and the 3 stars that adorn his head. He plans on ignoring the riddle and to settling down and ruling Hed, an island of farmers, but when his life and the lives of those he knows and loves are put in danger, Morgan realizes that he has to find the answer to the riddle.

His journey takes him to many a land and he learns how to shapeshift, to become as the trees and he finds a harp and a sword, both with the same 3 stars and all prophesied about millenia before. He finds that a threat that destroyed the Earthmasters is rising anew and now threatens all the lands again.

Morgan makes his way to Erlenstar Mountain, seat of the High One, the last of the Earthmasters. The book ends with him finding out that the High One is the High Wizard that destroyed all the other wizards and is also one of the Masters of Cathnard, the school of Riddling.

My Thoughts:

I can completely understand why I gave this 3 stars back in 2007. Morgan is one of those characters who fights against destiny more out of a mulish desire to be left alone and will make choices, no matter how bad, based on that mulish side of him. I still had issues with him this time around but it wasn't nearly so bad, as I had a LOT of sympathy for the poor guy. I know I'd be the same way now.

The other reason is that this has touches of McKillip's lyrical writing style but is trying to tell a straight on fantasy story and it can be hard to do that. Much more prose'y and so where I don't mind the slow pace and hiding of information because of the poetry of her later writings, this didn't have that advantage. I was frustrated at times where a character wouldn't reveal info for no apparent reason. Since this was a re-read though, I know there is a reason and I just haven't gotten to it yet. It is amazing how my attitude can change when I know that an apparent mystery isn't just arbitrarily set forth but has a point by the author.

While the writing is more prosaical than her later stuff, I did not find that a strong point for this book. I'd also be hesitant to recommend this trilogy as a first try for someone new to McKillip. Let them taste the beauty of her writing from when she is more accomplished and then they'll be able to appreciate what she has set forth to accomplish in this Riddlemaster trilogy.

Overall, I really enjoyed this with the occasional bout of frustration. I think I'm making the correct decision to not immediately dive into the second book but to wait until this trilogy comes back to its turn in the reading cycle. Time is a great ameliorator.

★★★★☆ ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | May 18, 2018 |
I started off liking author McKillip's main character: Morgon, the prince of Hed, who seems a decent, down-to-earth fellow. He loads wagons, has too much to drink on occasion, quarrels with his sister and tussles with his brother, and has won himself a crown in a riddle contest with a ghost. Oh, and he's got three stars on his forehead, something that comes up well into the book. McKillip never describes these three stars - they're just there. I couldn't tell if they were birthmarks or scars or tattoos or scratch n' sniff stickers. But turns out they're important, which makes me wonder why McKillip waits so long to mention them.

Anyway, the stars and the crown and all that stuff means Morgon's got to leave his bucolic life in Hed and Have Adventures. Once he's off on his quest, he becomes less grounded and more like a stereotypical "Chosen One" fantasy hero. He hooks up with a harper named Deth and gets into a bunch of scrapes wherein he gets the crap beat out of him and then has to rest and heal while things get explained to him.

While there are some lyrical passages (I particularly liked the sequences when Morgon learns to shape-shift), the pacing is leaden at times. McKillip is only an okay writer and heavy-handed with the "-ly" adverbs, particularly in dialogue tags. By the middle of the book I was only reading in a perfunctory way, and at the end I didn't feel any pressing need to get my hands on the subsequent books to learn the rest of Morgon's story. ( )
  mrsmig | Jan 19, 2018 |
good character definition - good world building - strong philisophical posturing - weak causality - strong fate - medium luck

probably won't read more by author ( )
  jason9292 | Aug 18, 2017 |
I last read this in 1979, when the third of the trilogy, Harpist in the Wind was published. I read it first in 1977. A teen, I thought it fresh! a departure from the Tolkien I loved. As an adult, I still think it different, though raw. Ms. McKillip herself says the trilogy is not her favorite, but she stills holds it dear for being a labor of her youth. I didn't understand the whole riddle thing when I was 15, and as an adult I see it as a device - but not really riddles - but it is still interesting, and engaging. Refreshing to read after all these years. Sad I lost my original paperbacks last year, but glad I have a rollup in ebook form. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
As far as classics of fantasy go, it's not quite what I expected. Starts a bit slow (the first hundred pages or so were harder to get through than I expected, and to be honest, it feels like it needed a bit of editing! There are a couple of points where a key sentence seemed to be missing. For example, why not mention the stars in our hero's forehead when he's introduced? Surely people can see them. But I moved through, and it picked up, and now I have higher hopes for the next two volumes. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | May 6, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Patricia A. McKillipprimary authorall editionscalculated
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, Darrell K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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the first eleven chapters
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Morgon of Hed met the High One's harpist one autumn day when the trade-ships docked at Tol for the season's exchange of goods.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345288815, Mass Market Paperback)

Long ago, the wizards had vanished from the world, and all knowledge was left hidden in riddles. Morgon, prince of the simple farmers of Hed, proved himself a master of such riddles when he staked his life to win a crown from the dead Lord of Aum.
But now ancient, evil forces were threatening him. Shape changers began replacing friends until no man could be trusted. So Morgon was forced to flee to hostile kingdoms, seeking the High One who ruled from mysterious Erlenstar Mountain.
Beside him went Deth, the High One's Harper. Ahead lay strange encounters and terrifying adventures. And with him always was the greatest of unsolved riddles -- the nature of the three stars on his forehead that seemed to drive him toward his ultimate destiny.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:04 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In seeking the answer to the riddle of the three stars on his forehead and the three stars on the enchanted harp and sword, Morgon, Prince of Hed, goes ultimately to the High One, himself.

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