Winner of the first World Fantasy Award for best novel, I wanted to like this book.
Actually, I really wanted to like this book. It comes from a time in publishing when everything made it to the public library where I did the bulk of my discovering as a kid and into my early teen years.
But the prose was cold and dry and kind of dull. So was the main character. Between the two, they were so cold and dry and dull that I could only get a few chapters in before I had to put the story down down.
Sybel is a sorceress of some kind, who lives on a remote mountain with only a few other people nearby. She collects mythical beasts, a hobby she inherited from her father and grandfather. At sixteen, she’s also an orphan, but powerful, and takes care of the beasts even as they take care of her.
Someone dumps a baby on her doorstep and she gets pressured into raising the child. Somehow, she grows to love him as well, but we skip too much to find out how or why and we’re left to understand that she loves the kid because she loves the kid and that’s what women do. And that’s typical of the first hundred pages or so: there’s not really enough given in the writing to understand Sybel’s motivations or why I should care how she feels about anything. Or if she feels anything at all.
Tamlorn, the baby, is the child of a king, but the king thought he was someone else’s, and there was jealousy and a war and bad blood all around. We never really get the full story of what went on, at least not by the point where I stopped reading, but it’s key to the rest of the tale. I have the feeling that the overall theme of the book is about making choices. There’s a little revenge mixed in, I think, and a mystery of some strange mythical creature only loosely described, but there’s not enough here to hold my interest.
Overall rating: 1 star, because I can hardly give it more if I couldn’t manage to finish it. Maybe if Sybel could have managed to call him something other than, “My Tam”, just once.by