A delicately wrought, twinkle-eyed fantasy from the accomplished author of The Bards of Bone Plain (2010, etc.).
It’s disconcerting to realize that most of McKillip’s characters have, at first, no idea what’s going on—and the few that do are saying nothing. In a California-like north coast small town, Pierce Oliver, blissfully unaware of his background, supplies crabs for the restaurant owned by his mother, Heloise, a sorceress. Until, that is, some knights wander in, having become lost on their way back to Severluna…knights who ride in a long black limousine and communicate via cellphone. The knights advise Pierce to seek his fortune at King Arden’s court. Something clicks, and Pierce announces his decision. In a rage, Heloise tells Pierce about his (not-dead) father and about an older brother he never knew he had. As Pierce drives south, Chimera Bay beguiles him with multiple mysteries. At the Kingfisher Inn, he witnesses a fascinating and baffling ritual involving the Friday Night Fish Fry, falls in love with another man’s desperately unhappy wife, and finds it necessary to steal a chef’s knife. Meanwhile, even farther south, in Severluna, King Arden tells his illegitimate youngest son, Prince Daimon, the truth about the boy’s (not-dead) mother. Following which, Arden assembles his knights and announces a quest to locate an ancient and powerful artifact. But why? And why now? McKillip skillfully blends a thoroughly modern passion for technology and seafood with folklore, myth, and magic in a narrative consistently full of surprises. The characters, though, aren’t always fully drawn, and the overlarge back story too often merely tantalizes.
Fantasy lovers looking for a lighter touch amid all those vampires, zombies, werewolves, and industrial-strength malefactors will find this a refreshing change of pace.