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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

cover of Alphabet of Thorn

What a delight -- a McKillip book during vacation. A variety of characters have lives that intertwine more than they realize. The safety of their kingdom is held in the hands of those who are unlikely, but also both powerful and gentle. A young princess has recently become queen. An orphaned translator intercepts a book with an alphabet only she can read. Two friends grow up together and discover a way to do all they dream, which is impossible. 3 separate tales (and their own larger stories) are drawn to one ending, where each has a vital role to play, and seeming weaknesses are suddenly strengths and characteristics to depend on.

The Queen of Raine is young and is not her father. Her advisor is an old witch (in a good sense -- not a hag!), who is frustrated at all the work she must do. Through a series of events, it is discovered that the Queen of Raine does not her father's skills -- but she does have magic powers and unexpected wisdom. This Queen has the unlikely ability to hide -- to go into the magic forest and to be told secrets and kept safe and quiet. She can also be invisible so that others go on with their business and let her in on truth. This comes in very useful -- the innumerable army is coming to conquer her land, and she gets all the other magicians to help her hide her kingdom and people. It works .. and the land they come to is desolate, decaying, empty. at least that's how it appears ...

The powerful mage who has supplied the means to this king and his army to conquer untold lands is slowly revealed through the story she writes of herself to her daughter. She hid herself in a disguise so she could be near the man she loved -- the king. To keep it secret, since his marriage day, nobody but him has truly seen her or heard her voice. She is feared and honored, but not known or loved by any but him. When he discovers how powerful she is, he asks what she wants from him. One thing only does she ask of him -- a child. Nepenthe is that child. At the end, the mage is asked to choose between her lover and her daughter -- to choose between power and being seen. How often we seek to hide, to be something we are not -- even for good reasons. But what great freedom is offered to us when we choose to step out of hiding and be as much ourselves as is possible. What great freedom comes in truth.

Title:Alphabet of Thorn
Author: Patricia McKillip
Date published:2004
Genre: Fantasy
Number of pages: 304
Notes: Borrowed from lark


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