Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld - Patricia McKillip

Thanks to the generosity of my friend Jane from the Child_Lit list, who kindly lent it to me, I have just finished reading Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Sybel is the daughter and granddaughter of wizards who lives on Eld Mountain with a menagerie of fantastic and magical beasts: the Dragon Gyld, the riddling Boar Cyrin, the black Cat Moriah, the Lyon Gules, the Black Swan of Terleth and the Falcon Ter who once killed seven men in one fight. Only the White Bird Liralen has refused to answer the telepathic call which Sybel has sent out into the world. Liralen will only come once Sybel has learnt of love and hate, hope and despair...

One day a knight named Coren comes to Sybel carrying a tiny baby, Tamlorn, son of the King of Eldwold. He asks Sybel to give the baby shelter and so she does until he is 12. Then he desires to see his father and his desire sets in train a whole series of events in which Sybel is nearly destroyed.

This book was not quite as gripping as The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy, nor as supernatural as Winter Rose, but it was an interesting read. What particularly interested me was that men of power wanted to possess Sybel and her power for themselves - which reminded me of Maggie Furey's 'Artefacts of Power' series, in which men of power wanted to possess Aurian and her power, although she, like Sybel, chose as her mate men who wanted her for herself and who did not want to possess her. I found it interesting to contrast the experiences of Aurian and Sybel with the experiences of the women mages in Lynn Flewelling and Juliet E McKenna's respective series. At first I thought it was because of the way feminism has advanced in the intervening years (McKillip's 'Beasts' was published in 1974) - but Furey's series was published in the mid-1990s, and Flewelling's and McKenna's in the late-90s and early 21st century. Did feminism advance that much between the mid- and late-90s ? Or was Furey harking back to the older age ? Or is it simply that McKillip and Furey felt that it is inevitable that men of power will want to possess women of power ? Your thoughts and speculations are invited !


Martin LaBar said...

I would put it not that Sybel was nearly destroyed, but that her desire for revenge nearly destroyed her and everything precious to her. She had been terribly wronged by a man, but she had a choice about what to do about it.

Thanks for posting!

Michele said...

Well I was trying to avoid giving too much away. Despite my front page comment about including spoilers, sometimes I don't want to "spoil" a book... That's why I phrased it that way... And yes, she was wronged but she had a choice about what to do - and in the end, she made the right choice although events were in motion to such an extent that certain eventualities were unavoidable, I think.