Patricia McKillip,
The Tower at Stony Wood
(Ace, 2000)

When Regis Aurum, king of Yves, weds Gwynne of Skye, a mysterious old woman approaches Cyan Dag, Regis' best friend, and commands him to look carefully at the bride. When the knight reluctantly obeys, he finds that it is not a woman that his king has married, but a creature from elder days, a creature who confronts him and tells him that the true Gwynne of Skye is imprisoned in a tower in her homeland, with a magic mirror as her only contact with the world. Three days after the wedding, Cyan Dag rides out to rescue the rightful queen, knowing only that he must find a woman imprisoned in a tower in Skye.

Thayne Ysse is the heir to the North Islands, lost now in a war with Regis Aurum. Now, with his father's wits wandering into the past, his brother maimed and his people barely surviving, he dreams of revenge against Regis Aurum and his knights. One night a strange old woman comes to his castle with a tale about a dragon guarding a tower in Skye, a tower full of treasure that could be used to feed and clothe the North Islanders ... and bring them to war with Yves. Thayne sets out immediately to claim the dragon and its treasure for his own.

Along the way, both men's paths cross and they find that not all is at it seems -- not Gwynne of Skye, not the dragon, and not the old woman who is the Bard of Skye.

The Tower at Stony Wood is a magical new tale from the pen of Patricia McKillip. Told in her lyrical prose, the tale combines a variety of elements from dragons to selkies to the Madwoman of Shalott, that poor unfortunate from Arthurian legend who was enchanted so that she could never look upon the world without dying. Instead, she used a magic mirror to look out of her tower, weaving into tapestries the sights she saw, until the fateful night that she sees Lancelot passing by on his way to Camelot.

McKillip here weaves her own tapestry of war and revenge, peace and magic and the contentment that comes of finding one's own place in the world. As with all of McKillip's books, you'll want to savor every word, especially as she packs so much into so few.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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