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Kingfisher by [McKillip, Patricia A.]
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Length: 346 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

In the new fantasy from the award-winning author of the Riddle-Master Trilogy, a young man comes of age amid family secrets and revelations, and transformative magic.
Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, unexpectedly, strangers pass through town on the way to the legendary capital city. “Look for us,” they tell Pierce, “if you come to Severluna. You might find a place for yourself in King Arden’s court.”
Lured by a future far away from the bleak northern coast, Pierce makes his choice. Heloise, bereft and furious, tells her son the truth: about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen, and Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.
As Pierce journeys to Severluna, his path twists and turns through other lives and mysteries: an inn where ancient rites are celebrated, though no one will speak of them; a legendary local chef whose delicacies leave diners slowly withering from hunger; his mysterious wife, who steals Pierce’s heart; a young woman whose need to escape is even greater than Pierce’s; and finally, in Severluna, King Arden's youngest son, who is urged by strange and lovely forces to sacrifice his father’s kingdom.
Things are changing in that kingdom. Oldmagic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to its former glory—or destroy it...

From the Hardcover edition.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1007 KB
  • Print Length: 346 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0425271765
  • Publisher: Ace (2 February 2016)
  • Sold by: Penguin US
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00X593B7W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #147,961 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.3 out of 5 stars 59 reviews
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Doesn't Anyone Talk About McKillip's Sources? 19 March 2016
By A. Gilbert - Published on
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I always find it odd that no one discusses the sources of Patricia McKillip's stories, which are often a large part of their point, as with, for example, her two stories about the Pre-Raphaelites. This novel--a five-star compared to any other contemporary writer but slightly less than many of McKillip's novels that require six stars--is about various versions of the Grail quest and Arthurian mythology. We have the innocent "kitchen knight" Perceval (as both Pierce and Val) who witnesses the ceremony of the wounded Fisher King but does not immediately ask the healing question; the three goddesses /fates /witches, Morgan Le Fay, Morgaine / Morrigan, and Vivien / Nimue; the Celtic treasures; the Grail Quest as described by Thomas Mallory (and the knights from his tales, whom McKillip realizes most often sound like little more than entitled hooligans, offset by his descendant, a female knight); the healing death of the plant god; and much, much more. Examining McKillip's sources is almost as inspiring as reading her novels. And they are, typically, a somewhat hazy, mystical mixture, totally suited to her amazing, mystical storytelling gifts.

The main comment about this novel seems to be a complaint of its lack of linear logic. But she is not writing an empirical treatise; she is exploring the numinosity of myths, who, particularly in their ancient, contradictory eldest and eldritch origins, are more dreamlike than declamatory. I think of the contrast of ordinary writers and McKillip much like the contrast between Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Hawthorne's symbolism is as straightforward as symbolism can get; we know that Hester Prynne's scarlet letter is as much an allegory as a symbol, standing clearly for Adultery, Able, and Angel, as the author plainly states. However, Melville's tale of the white whale sounds the depths of philosophy and obscure sea lore to create a symbol that cannot be clearly pinned down; it is more about the mystery of life itself.

To put it another way, Hawthorne's works are multiple-choice tests; Melville's are essay questions. As with Melville, it is finding the answers and the meaning in McKillip's tales for oneself that enlightens. To expect McKillip's works to be rational is to limit her full capabilities for engendering magical, resonant works that linger in the unconscious like dreams, with all the meaningfulness of dreams and their necessity for mindful living.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not her best, but a fascinating setting 6 March 2016
By Firedrake - Published on
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I've been an avid fan of Patricia McKillip for 35 years; I would read a restaurant menu that she wrote, and probably love it. And the writing in this book doesn't disappoint -- it's her lyrical, yet grounded prose that can juxtapose an ancient ceremony with a Friday Night Fish Fry and make it work. However, despite the fact that I enjoy it, this isn't her best book.
The setting is fascinating. The juxtaposition of what is thematically King Arthur's court with an essentially modern society highlights the conflicts between worlds, and makes it easier to see the hidden beneath the known. Knighthood and its inherent violence/classism contrasts with the peace of the realm; cellphones coexist with magic. The sense of upset when the knights go questing is part of the upset of every part of the world shown, and is part of what stirs ancient magics within the story.
The weaving in of the mythology of the Fisher King is odder, and despite the fact that it's clearly central to the story's title, it never manages to integrate into a solid part of the plot. It feels rather like the elements are thrown into the story, but not explained. And whereas exposition would run counter to much of the story, I think that the story could be essentially the same without the Fisher King -- which for me is a problem. That's part of where the story falls down for me. The climatic scene does not seem to clarify the quest, and in fact, for me, only muddies it more. I was left with a lot of questions: why do the ravens no longer want Daimon? Is Calluna the god who appears at the end (and why)? Who does the cauldron/bowl/vessel/Grail belong to (if anyone)? And frankly, what are Leith and Heloise going to do? (OK, that's not strictly necessary, but with the repetition of "you need to talk to her" three or four times, it seems somewhat anti-climatic.
There are also a few things that seem thrown in that do not, in my opinion serve either the plot or theme. The entire interlude with the basilisk is very confusing. For that matter, though the two instances of seeing the Knights of the Rising God doing petty vandalism support the story, the subtler point of Pierce, Val, Leith, and Scotia being pulled in to deal with them doesn't seem to have nearly as clear a point. It is possible that the author is trying to recreate the episodic sense of the Grail Quest, but unfortunately, that doesn't work well for me in a modern novel. I want the threads pulled together and tied off.
The part I think is most of the letdown is the characters. Though drawn beautifully, there are enough protagonists that there is quite a bit of skimping on the stories of many of them. Pierce and Carrie get their respective stories resolved (and kudos for not trying to make them a romantic couple) but Daimon and Perdita are almost dropped cold. I did not understand why suddenly Daimon was no longer enspelled, and I certainly wanted Perdita to actually _do_ something, rather than just be a lens to watch Daimon. I wanted to understand better the relationship between Daimon and Scotia, and -- just like with Perdita -- I wanted to see Daimon _do_ something, or realize something (from the inside, not the outside). Scotia and Val are both half-formed characters -- they seem to have some sort of special senses or understandings, or roles, but these are never really made clear either. I know Ms. McKillip is quite capable of carrying these kinds of threads through, because she has done it in many previous books, and why she did not in this case I'm not sure.
And what about Todd Stillwater? I got who he was, but not why he left, or why he did _anything_ else. As a villan he doesn't work for me properly, because he seems to have no true motive, and kind of collapses the first time he's truly challenged. I don't understand why the cauldron/bowl/vessel/Grail is important to him. I don't know why he kept Sage, or why he wanted Carrie.
And what was with the ceremony in the Kingfisher? I know it was to echo the mythology of the Fisher King, but I don't know why it was important to the plot and the characters. Again, the pulling up of the mythological imagery wasn't enough for me. I wanted to have it integrated into the story.
Perhaps the author got a little carried away with the ideas, the themes, and the setting. After all, the Fisher King is a deeply mythological and archetypal character, and working with those themes can be tremendously powerful. But in doing so, I think she missed a lot of opportunities to tighten the plot, deepen the characters, and create another of the incredible classics that she is quite capable of bringing out of her brilliant imagination.
I've spent a lot of time complaining about this book, but it's because Ms. McKillip's worst books are better than most people's best (and this is far from her worst). I thoroughly enjoyed it, I just wanted the author to have followed through on the promise of the premise.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN OLD STORY MADE NEW IN A BEAUTIFULLY TOLD TALE 13 August 2016
By Elenora R. Sabin - Published on
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Patricia McKillip is a reliably excellent writer, and in this work she demonstrates consummate skill in plotting and in combining disparate elements into a fascinating story. Kingfisher is the name of a restaurant in the story but it is also a reference to the legend of the Fisher King. The book is a mythic fantasy based on the Arthurian legend of the search for the Holy Grail but with ingenious twists that only a skilled writer like McKillip could pull off. The story is set in another world in a country ruled by King Arden. The principal characters all have names differing from but clearly derived from the names of the principal characters in the Arthurian legends. But the knights in this tale ride motorcycles or travel in limos and keep in touch with folks back home via cell phones. The threads of Arthurian tales are twisted and woven into a new and original tapestry, as King Arden has charged his knights with finding a holy vessel that may be a cup, a goblet, a bowl, or perhaps even a cauldron, but is sacred to the kingdom’s god. The protagonist, Pierce, (cf Percival) an innocent young man whose sorceress mother has kept from him the identity of his father and has reared him in a small fishing village isolated from the larger world, learns that his father is a knight in King Arden’s court. In search of his father, he sets out for the capital city and blunders into involvement in the knightly quest. Despite the parallels with the Arthurian tales, this tale differs from them in unexpected ways and takes the reader down unfamiliar paths. The story is couched in McKillip’s inimitable style, with her poetic prose and vivid descriptions that allow the reader to visualize the scene with cinematic clarity. Her characters may be based on legends, but they are totally realistic and believable. Lovers of the Arthurian mythos will revel in the similarities and differences this tale offers, but readers unfamiliar with those tales will be no less captivated by the delightful characters and riveting plot.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Kingfisher fished for food.... 13 February 2016
By Lisa Tobleman - Published on
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I have to admit, this wasn't my favorite book by one of my favorite authors by a long shot. More like a series of vignettes with a loose thread that is frayed and often lost in what I guess was supposed to be a grand tapestry story interweaving several main characters together.
First let me back up a moment. I detest multiple perspective stories. I like to grab onto a character and experience their journey without the hither and yon that happens when you split a book into parts to follow vastly different characters with different paths, even if they all end up at the same location. I dislike following multiple characters even more if it is a first book and the author cloaks most of the story in weird foggy descriptions and perplexing "just answer one question for me please" kind of word games. I'm also not a fan of food journeys. So why am I bothering to review this at all? Because this is a fascinating if sometimes overwhelmingly frustrating book to read.
This is set in a sometime alternate future where cars are common on the coast of a blend between England and New England, but people live in a mystical faded glory of King Arthur. Where knights still take on quests, though they are just as likely to be riding motorbikes and inside limos as horses. Where armor and silk jackets, werewolves, and foggy enchantments lay heavy. And ancient Gods and the fey still wander across the land. We follow three, sometimes more people on a Kingfisher quest. To find a cauldron, or holy grail, or fountain of knowledge that has been lost in time and just might be found in a small coastal town filled with silences and questions. Follow a sorceress' son, a bastard prince, a daughter of a wolf, and many others as they follow their hearts (and stomachs) on this modern rebelling of King Arthur and his quest for the holy grail.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'll always be a fan, but ... 3 March 2016
By Marzipan77 - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Love McKillip's writing. She builds a world like no other. The characters are beautifully fleshed out and sympathetic. The story itself, however, is hard to follow. Harder than it should be. I'm a big fan of immersive fantasy, where nothing is explained and the reader has to figure it out, but this one was more difficult than it had to be. The scenes all seemed short, leaving a whole lot out. Leaving me to say, "what just happened?" and not in the best way. The book could have been longer, giving the reader more then brief glimpses into the settings and situations, letting us "in on" what was happening so, at the end, instead of saying, "huh," we'd have said, "of course!" I think the author is better than this.