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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, January 02, 2006

Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip

Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip. New York: Ace Books, 2005. ISBN: 0-441-01248-5

When I started to read this book, I soon said to myself, “Now, THIS is how a fantasy novel is supposed to be!” Just to show you what I mean, allow me to quote the opening paragraph:

Brenden Vetch found the Od School of Magic beneath a cobbler's shoe on a busy street in the ancient city of Kelior. The sign hung over the door of a tiny shop that badly needed paint. Brenden gazed incredulously at the door, then again at the sign. Od, it insisted, in neat black letters, School of Magic. From the sign a shoe depended: a wooden clog, sturdy enough to sail, fastened to the sign with a dowel through its center like a mast.

Or how about the paragraph describing Od herself? Allow me to quote again:

She was quite tall, almost a giant, barefoot and bigboned as an ox. Her long hair, a mingling of ivory cloud and smoke, swept nearly to her ankles. Nothing in her broad, weathered face had passed anywhere near the realm of beauty. It looked plain and durable and ageless, like a good shovel or cauldron. Her long mouth lifted to one side in a friendly smile as Brenden stared at her. Any number of animals seemed to be crawling over her. Mice peered from one shoulder; a raven with a missing claw perched on the other. Lizards clung to her hair. A ferret stuck its head out of her cloak pocket. A great albino ox with a broken horn stood at a polite distance behind her, downwind, or Brenden surely would have smelled it coming. It carried an owl on its unbroken horn. A few mongrels, feral cats, and an old blind she-wolf sat waiting behind the ox.

Now if those passages don't make you want to read the rest of the book, then well, don't (read it, that is).

To be completely honest, the book doesn't entirely live up to those beginnings, but it comes fairly close. By that, I wish it could have continued to concern itself with such homely topics as those described in the passages I quote, but instead, we have to involve ourselves with a School of Magic that has gone its own way, circumscribing its goals and methods, and putting them under the influence of the king. This eventually leads to a confrontation between the rigidity of tradition, and the freer influences of Brenden, Od herself (the School's founder) and others like them. I suppose we need some source of conflict to carry the storyline, and this is it.

Nevertheless, highly recommended for lovers of fantasy, especially fantasy of the less rigidly stereotyped variety.

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