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The Riddle-Master of Hed (original 1976; edition 1976)

by Patricia A. McKillip

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,541314,765 (4.04)1 / 162
Member:RebeccaAnn
Title:The Riddle-Master of Hed
Authors:Patricia A. McKillip
Info:DEL REY (1976), Mass Market Paperback, 229 pages
Collections:Fantasy, Fiction, Wishlist
Rating:
Tags:Wishlist, Fantasy, Fiction

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The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip (1976)

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English (29)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All (31)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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 |
Farmer prince Morgon goes unwillingly on a quest to discover his destiny. What is the meaning of the star-shaped marks on his face? Who are the strangers who are trying to kill him? These are just a couple of the many pressing questions Morgon seeks to answer. Be forewarned: nothing gets answered in this book; it ends in the mother of all cliffhangers. This didn't bother me too much, because I read it so I could read the second book, which is one of my long-term shelf-sitters.

I've read other books by McKillip, though not recently. Her writing style can be a little dreamy and abstract for my taste, though in this book it only got really incomprehensible once or twice. The story is good, though typical of the genre (maybe less so when it was written, forty years ago), and I'll definitely keep reading, because I have to know what happens next, given the book's abrupt ending! ( )
  foggidawn | Feb 8, 2017 |
The first in the Riddlemaster Trilogy. A destiny is forced upon the Landheir of Hed, a peaceful island of farmers. Stylewise, this was very prose. I could see the hints of her verse poking through, but nothing like some of her later books. Found this to be a little confusing and hope the next 2 books will shed more light on this new world. ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
The Riddle-Master of Hed
by Patricia A. McKillip
Del Rey, 1978
ISBN 0-345-28881-5
MMPB, viii, 232 p.

Review date: August 2016

Lord of the Rings. Earthsea. Shannara. The Wheel of Time. Up until recently, these four series are probably the only ones I would have named if asked to recommend classics of the high fantasy genre. They were really the only ones I was personally familiar with. That changed when I read Patricia McKillip’s 1970s-era novel The Riddle-Master of Hed.

I had come across used copies of all three books in the Riddle-Master trilogy on the shelves in the thrift shop where I volunteer, and although I was a bit wary, fearing that they’d be just another bit of derivative schlock, I decided, after some deliberation, to buy them. I think it was the byline that swayed me. Although I hadn’t read McKillip’s work before, I’d heard good things; moreover, despite the fact that the main character seemed to be yet another youth of the male persuasion, I’m a fan of Le Guin’s Earthsea novels and figured it’d be nice to see what another woman might do with the trope.

Thus, knowing nothing more than what the back-cover blurb could tell me (which, of course, wasn’t much), I settled in some time later to give the first book in the trilogy a go, only to find that McKillip used the genre and its tropes in ways that were familiar but at the same time different enough to be considered original.

The main character of the tale is Morgon, land-ruler of the island nation of Hed. Although his people are mostly agrarian and live simple lives, Morgon is by no means a country bumpkin. Before their untimely deaths not long before the narrative begins, his parents saw fit to allow Morgon to attend college in the trade city of Caithnard, where he proved himself an adept student of history. As the story starts, Prince Morgon—who has newly inherited the land-rulership of his homeland—and his two younger siblings are preparing for the seasonal market that is about to commence in Hed. Of course, the influx of trade vessels is the perfect situation for depositing a stranger into the protagonist’s life, and in this case, that stranger is the ominously named Deth, harpist and nuncio of the High One, the enigmatic rex otiosus of the known realms. At the center of their seemingly random meeting is an old crown, which, it has recently been revealed, Morgon has won in a dangerous and secret battle of wits with a revenant and for which Deth has been searching on behalf of the ruler of An, who—unbeknownst to Morgon—had pledged his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man who won the crown. And so the two set forth to take the crown to the king of An. Trouble ensues, destiny is revealed, and Morgon is caught up in events that have been fated for centuries, if not millennia, since the end of the last age of mankind. You know, the usual.

Except, it’s not the usual. As mentioned, McKillip puts a fresh spin on things—there isn’t much magic, there aren’t many monsters or other supernatural creatures, and the main character fights his destiny throughout the narrative, long after most would have embraced it—and she does so with an artistic flair that rivals the most literary works not only of the fantasy genre but of the entirety of English literature; her words are a pleasure to read, and her world is a pleasure to visit and come to know.

I will admit that it took me some time to get into the book—her style can be difficult, and her pacing and manner of revealing information to readers can take some getting used to; plus, her “riddles” aren’t riddles in the traditional sense—but once I did, I was hooked, and I came to see the merit in the work. I’m glad I found The Riddle-Master of Hed tucked away on those shelves of second-hand books, and I look forward to reading the two books that follow. I have since learned that the trilogy is considered something of a classic in the field—although it’s a lesser known classic—and a well-loved one at that, judging from the ratings and reviews, which are, for the most part, consistent in their high marks and praise. I’m not surprised. I’m pretty sure I’ve found a new series that I'm likely to come back to again.

——————————

Rating:

3 stars: It was good. Technical, conventional, and other errors are rare or nonexistent, and the work stands out among others of its kind. I would be likely to recommend the work to others. Equivalent to a 'B', or above average, grade. ( )
  tokidokizenzen | Aug 8, 2016 |
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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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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.

(summary from another edition)

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