Book Review: The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia McKillip

329 pp.

The Bards of Bone Plain combines ancient magic, music and archaeology into a slow, meandering story about the search for magic that turns out to have been there the entire time. The primary storyline involves a search for a place that may only exist in metaphor and legend, a princess who is more interested in archaeology digs than in parties, and an archaeologist and his rocky relationship with his son. The secondary storyline is about Nairn, a legendary bard who failed some kind of mystical test, and is cursed with the loss of his music and immortality.

I ended up liking this book more than I had liked The Bell at Sealey Head, mostly because of the theme of intergenerational conflict between Jonah and his son, and Beatrice and her mother. Jonah Cle and his son Phelan come into conflict because Jonah is not around, even though they have similar interests.  Beatrice and her mother come into conflict because Beatrice loves archaeology and her mother would prefer that Beatrice started acting like a princess instead of a scholar. (What I particularly love about the latter story line is that the king is also an enthusiastic amateur historian and it is revealed, completely supports his daughter’s interests.)

The only real problem I had with the book is that the buildup was too slow for me. There was very little sense of urgency or suspense, even in areas where you would expect there to be suspense or urgency. I think the problem is that the focus was not where I thought it was going to be. Despite the quest for tangible magic, mysterious and possibly supernatural strangers and cursed immortals, this is essentially a story about people having somewhat adversarial relationships with their parents.


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Filed under fantasy, Patricia McKillip, Review: Book

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