Patricia McKillip
The Riddle-Master of Hed
Atheneum 1976

Patricia McKillip
Heir of Sea and Fire
Atheneum 1977

Patricia McKillip
Harpist in the Wind
Atheneum 1979

Patricia McKillip's "Riddle-Master Trilogy" is probably one of the world's most read fantasy series. Originally written for children, its fan base now consists of people of all ages. After reading it I'm not at all surprised, because it's definitely not your average children's fantasy series. If you like it, you'll like it regardless of age - and if you don't, you'll have quite a confusing time reading it. I know. I had.

It was the day the traders came to Hed, a busy and exciting day for everyone on the small island, but most of all for Morgon, Prince of Hed. Still a young man, he's not only already the ruler of his island, but also an educated man: a riddle-master. On this day he first have to admit that he has a crown under his bed, a crown he won in the most famous riddle-game in the world - against the ghost of Peven. You win, you get the crown. You lose, you die. And when Morgon has confessed that he's won that game, he's told that the King of An has promised his daughter to the man who beats Peven's ghost: Raederle, the woman he already loves.

In a fairy tale that would be quite enough. The young hero does the unexpected, heroic thing and gets the prize, the princess. This time it all gets a little messed up, though. Before Morgon reaches his Raederle, his destiny catches up with him: he buys a harp with three stars, corresponding to the three stars on his forehead, and together with the High One's harpist he's almost killed. A game of running and hiding from mysterious, mighty and decidedly non-Human enemies while trying to reach the High One's hold in the Erlenstar Mountain begin. Because only the High One has the answer to the riddle Morgon must solve: Who is he? What does the stars on his forehead mean? And how can he save the world from the enemies he doesn't even know?

Morgon's quest is basically to save the world as we know it. Only - it turns out neither he nor anyone else knows it very well. It's full of unexpected surprises even for its inhabitants, and it's at times almost incomprehensible for complete strangers like me. The characters find it quite ordinary that some people live till they're 700 years old or more, and that some people use to change shape to a crow or even a tree isn't enough to make them raise an eye-brow, so when they get surprised, it's because the story is twisting in really weird ways.

In the first book, it's Morgon who chase around the world in search for answers. In the second one, Raederle chases around the world in search for Morgon. In the third book, they together face their enemy. In all three books they travel a lot, meeting a lot of strange people, seeing many strange sites and learning quite a few strange abilities. Personally, I was more confused than delighted by all this, but I must also admit that it's a well-written and very original adventure Ms. McKillip offers - Still, it definitely wasn't my cup of tea.

Karl Henriksson

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The Riddle-Master of HedPaperback
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Henriksson & Henriksson 1998.