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Sep 2007
The Riddle-Master’s Game - Patricia A. McKillip - Gollancz, 2001
* * * *
If, on a quiet evening, you should find yourself in the vicinity of Wolvercote, North Oxford, you will hear a faint whirring noise. The sound is Professor J.R.R. Tolkien spinning in his grave as yet another Lord of the Rings-inspired fantasy trilogy hits the book shelves. He has only himself to blame, of course; the themes of epic fantasy (a hero with a hidden birthright; prophecies that must be fulfilled; a Dark Lord who is a point source for all evil in the land; a humanoid dark race who are his minions; a brewing war for survival; magical abilities possessed only by the select few; items of power; women reduced to bit parts) have been present in folk tales and myths from around the world for centuries, but his unique achievement was to bring them together into a narrative that would lodge itself like crack cocaine in the brains of the vulnerable. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery (and market demand the mother of (lack of) invention), it was inevitable that other authors would try to create their own takes on these epic themes without Professor Tolkien’s deep knowledge of the source material and painstaking attention to detail, with largely disastrous results. I would like to think, however, that Patricia McKillip’s trilogy may have slowed his post-mortem gyrations just a little.
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