Patricia A. McKillip,
The Book of Atrix Wolfe
(Ace, 1995)

As an aspiring writer, words fascinate me. They also confuse, compel, inspire and irritate me. No writer has better captured the elusive power of language than Patricia A. McKillip. The Book of Atrix Wolfe is a shimmering tale of language, power, magic and soul.

Atrix Wolfe, the White Wolf of Chaumenard and one of the greatest mages the land has ever known, has secluded himself in the forests, away from any who might recognize him. Twenty years ago, he brought into being a dark hunter, fashioned from the hatred, hunger, despair and anger, which prowled the battleground between Kardith and Pelucir. His creation not only affected the two kingdoms, but also changed the lives of the Queen of the Wood, her daughter, and her consort.

Now, Atrix Wolfe must emerge from his hermitage. Talis, the younger brother of the King of Pelucir, has uncovered a hidden book whose spells don't mean what they say. Talis is drawn into the Wood to help the Queen find Atrix Wolfe. He took her daughter and her consort years ago, and she wants them back. However, Atrix Wolfe must face his own past and the dark side of his soul -- the dark hunter -- in order to save Talis and the kingdom of Pelucir.

The Book of Atrix Wolfe is intricately written, with characters that seem to step off the pages and come to life. McKillip's stunning attention to detail brings to life Saro's existence in the kitchen, scrubbing pots and looking for words she used to know; Talis' enchantment under the Queen of the Wood; and Atrix Wolfe's struggle to come to terms with the destruction he created on Hunter's Field twenty years ago. Each of these characters seem to live in different worlds, populated by sounds, smells, and tastes artfully rendered with the subtle grace of a poet. McKillip deftly meshes these scenes with a lyrical imagery and powerful perception that teeters on the border between reality and fairy -- which is more real, more true?

McKillip is a World Fantasy Award winner, for good reason. The Book of Atrix Wolfe is one of those novels that you devour the first time around, eager to watch the story unfold. The subsequent readings (and there are many, in my case) are more careful, lingering slowly over the lush descriptions and exquisite prose.

[ by Audrey Clark ]

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