Patricia McKillip has done it again. Kingfisher, her latest novel, is another finely-crafted, multi-layered novel told in the author’s signature poetic style. This time, she turns to the Arthurian legend and, loosely, the story of the Fisher King. In a world very like ours, Pierce has been raised in an isolated area by his mother, a sorceress, restaurateur, and chef. When knights show up in his home town, he begins to wonder more about his father and the king’s court, ultimately setting out to the capitol. Carrie is a cook at the Kingfisher Inn where, every night, a strange and beautiful ritual is enacted and where too much goes unexplained. The king has heard of a mysterious, powerful chalice and sent his knights out to find it. The people of an older realm are at work. A bastard son is being offered a kingdom.
All of these tales end up interweaving, mixing and melding as people undertake their quests and ask questions of the world and each other. There is magic, beauty, and a villain with a strange plot. Reading a McKillip novel is like looking through a kaleidoscope: You may recognize some of the colors and shapes from our world, but the view has been changed. Kingfisher shares some familiar elements from her prior novels: The danger and necessity of wild beauty, the importance of story, the strangeness of family, and the importance of food in its many shapes—another way of making the familiar strange.
I do confess to some disappointment in the change of cover-artist. There is nothing wrong with Kingfisher‘s cover, but I like Kinuko Y. Craft’s covers and enjoyed having a matched set of McKillip books on my shelf.
All of McKillip’s books get better on successive rereads. I am looking forward to rereading Kingfisher and discovering the cracks and crannies I missed.
Kingfisher is available now. Look for it on Amazon, or (and I know I’ve said this before!) go to your local library. Libraries are awesome.