Sybel is a powerful sorceress who has lived alone on the mountain most of her life, surrounded by a menagerie of mystical beasts. There is Cyrin the boar, a riddle-master who occasionally chooses to speak with a human voice; the dragon Gyld, who misses his hidden treasure and will kill any man who gets in his way; Gules Lyon, eternally wise but remorselessly savage in his defence of his mistress; Ter, the great falcon who legendarily slaughtered seven men but will always answer to Sybel’s command, and Moriah, a cat who knows the darkest of magics. They are content together, and have no wish to encounter the world of man – a world, not so far away, where war is constantly threatening to begin again. But when a baby is brought to Sybel’s doorstep, a baby who is heir to a tyrannous King, Sybel and her beasts are eventually forced to choose a side. And when a powerful wizard tries to enslave Sybel, she discovers she is capable of terrible vengeance.
Patricia A. McKillip is one of the fantasy genre’s finest authors, and when The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was first published more than forty years ago it won the prestigious World Fantasy Award. The intervening decades haven’t diminished its power. It is an extraordinary book, and McKillip deserves all the praise she received for creating such a masterful, brave, intricately crafted universe. This is an Arthurian myth-that-isn’t, a fairytale without a ‘Once Upon a Time…’ Her command of language is intoxicating, her characters are beautifully realised, and there is a resonating emotional power in every page. Not unlike the characters in her stories, McKillip knows how to invoke magic. Perhaps The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is not for everybody – it is, at its heart, a deeply romantic tale that is rich in psychological conflict but light in sword and sorcery. But it is an exquisite work of storytelling art and a stunning example of McKillip at the height of her powers (powers which never seem to wane). A very welcome revival of a fantasy classic, and the cover – by Elizabeth Story and Thomas Canty – is pretty stunning as well.
THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD / AUTHOR: PATRICIA A. MCKILLIP / PUBLISHER: TACHYON PUBLICATIONS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW