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Sunday, July 02, 2006

cover of Od Magic

Another enchanting book from McKillip-- about magic, but more about seeing and listening to other people. Od is a mysterious (female) magician who founded a magic school centuries ago in the capital city of Numis; Od herself has been seen now and then in various places, usually surrounded by the many animals she is working to heal. Over the years, the kings of Numis have come to feel that Od's school and its magicians belong to their kingdom, and have made rules to keep the magic under their control, lest it be a political threat. Od is still around, and influences events and people indirectly to steer her school back to where it belongs, and to bring back a sense of wonder and awe to the study of magic.

One of the ways Od brings changes to her school is through Brenden Vetch, who she invites to come work as a gardener. The significant thing about Brenden is that, while he is very powerful, he hasn't been trained by anyone or learned any rules; he loves plants, and has simply learned how to "listen" to things until they talk to him-- they tell him how to take care of them, what they might be good for. One thing I found particularly interesting-- Brenden doesn't recognize his power for a long time because of the weight of grief he carries (his parents died in a plague and he couldn't cure them, other loved ones left him). When he suddenly uses his power in an unmistakable way, he finally sees this.

Tears he held, a deep welling of grief, and something else, more powerful than either, that he had mistaken for sorrow. It had no name, this power, and no face but his own.
I wouldn't have associated power and sorrow, but McKillip's beautiful language convinces me of it.

Brenden's magic is different from the other magicians in that he simply learns by listening and watching his plants (McKillip also makes a language/image distinction). There are a number of nale-female pairings where this is also significant. One man falls in love with the magician Tyramin's daughter-- and she falls in love with him, too, because he recognizes her, and sees her as beautiful, without the masks on she wears in Tyramin's performances. The princess Sulys becomes engaged to the powerful wizard Valoren Greye, who is so busy with politics that he fails to take the time to see and listen to his future bride. Another pairing, Ceta & Yar, seem so well-suited to each other-- perhaps precisely because they do listen to each other, and see each other for who they really are.

This is a beautiful book, and very engaging (I read in just a few days). Probably not my favorite of McKillip's, although I'm not quite sure why... It seemed like there were too many characters, and I guessed that some of them were not what they seemed (like the curious and powerful magic young student Elver); perhaps having so many characters made it more difficult to engage or connect with any of them deeply. Also lots of oddities (like the twilight quarter, which wakes up at dusk and sleeps during the day) which added uniqueness and interest to the scenery, but didn't seem particulary purposeful.

Title:Od Magic
Author:Patricia Mckillip
Date published:2005
Number of pages:315


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