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The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia McKillip

Review by Lyssa

The Book of Atrix Wolfe is a fanciful novel filled with all the elements one comes to expect from the Fantasy genre: earth-shattering evil, puzzling quests, beautiful and mysterious maidens in distress, sweeping landscapes and breathtaking fanciful creatures. It is the tale of an aging mage, an eager sorcerer-prince, a puzzling kitchen girl, and the memories of a dreadful battle; it is the story of a war and its aftermath that begs the question: how does one survive with the memories of what he has done? This novel addresses the very real problem of soldiers all over our world: it examines post-traumatic stress disorder, shell-shock, in a way I have never personally seen addressed in the genre: with all the literal truth that can be written in a fictional, Fantasy tale, without becoming technical.

Atrix Wolfe, summoned to the tent of the Prince of Kardeth, is asked to end the siege of Hunter's Field. Angry with the Prince's request (one never asks a mage of Chaumenard to participate in a war), and with the entire battle itself, Atrix fashions a monstrous being out of all the hatred and fear swirling before him on Hunter's Field. It is a bloody, fierce battle, and before it is over, many soldiers die at the hands of their magically aided foe, the King of Pelucir is dead, the queen dies of complications of childbirth, and the two young princes of Pelucir, Burne and his newborn brother, Talis, are orphaned. Left to grow with the ghosts, the haunted survivors, and the Hunter of Hunter's field. Twenty years pass and Talis grows to manhood under the tutelage of the Mages of Chaumenard, learning their skills as best he can, taunted by the jibes of his bitter classmates, who blame him for the destruction that night on Hunter's Field. But soon he finds himself in possession ofa book of spells, spells that say one thing, but mean another. A book written by, belonging to, and hidden by the Great Mage Atrix Wolfe. Summoned home to choose a wife, Talis takes the book back to the King's castle in Pelucir, drawing Atrix Wolfe out of his anguished seclusion.

Here, they both are to face their own fears, nightmares, and demons born of Hunter's Field, even as they face its greatest mystery; for not only did the human world suffer from that terrible battle, but just at its edges there lies an enchanted wood and its Queen too suffered a terrible loss that night. Her daughter and her beloved Consort both were taken that deadly night; both dragged away in the wake of the Making of the dread Hunter of Hunter's Field, that dark thing that Atrix fashioned to end the siege of Pelucir. And now, the Queen wants them back, demands Atrix find and return her daughter, or Talis' life will be forfeit. Only the Great Mage, he who fashioned the terrible dilemma, can set both worlds aright.

This was a very enjoyable, heart-wrenching story; one written with beautiful prose and attention to detail. If you're looking for a modern Fantasy novel, but one containing all the feeling of a beloved fairytale, I highly recommend Patricia A. McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe, and give it five amulets.

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