The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was published before Patricia McKillip’s The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), the first book of her Riddle of Stars trilogy (1979 as trilogy; also known as the Riddle-Master trilogy), for which she is probably best known. Like the trilogy, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld overflows with elements typical in fantasy: fabulous, mythical animals; powerfully magical wizards; and kings, princes, and wars. To this familiar fantasy background, McKillip adds a host of distinctive and all-too-human characters. The rich, poetic language does not overwhelm this story of love, betrayed trust, revenge, and, above all, taking responsibility for ones actions. All the characters, including the beasts, display conflicting loyalties and motives as they struggle to attain their innermost desires while trying not to hurt those they love.
McKillip’s fantasy novels are noted for their excellent characterizations. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld allows for exploration of the souls of all the characters. Even the emotional motivations of the villains are somewhat understandable. Drede is driven by fear to try to entrap Sybel, but his devotion to his son is evident. Coren remains hopelessly in love with Sybel even when she tampers with his thoughts and manipulates him as if he were another of her captured animals. Sybel herself seems remote and aloof, far removed from the turmoils of the feuds outside her mountain...
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