The Tower at Stony Wood
By: Patricia A. McKillip
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy
She saw the knight in the mirror at sunset…
During the wedding festivities of his king, Cyan Dag, a knight of Gloinmere, is sought out by a mysterious bard and told a terrifying tale: that the king has married a false queen—a lie cloaked in ancient and powerful sorcery. Spurred on by his steadfast honor and loyalty, Cyan departs on a dangerous quest to rescue the real queen from her tower prison, to prevent war, and to awaken magic in a land that has lost its way…
I’m always up for a Patricia A. McKillip novel. I love how there’s a dreamy-like quality to her fantasy novels. And aren’t her book covers amazing? Anyways, I loved Ombria in Shadow (review) and Alphabet of Thorn (review) so I was greatly looking forward to reading this novel =) May contain some spoilers ahead!
As with all of McKillip’s novels, there’s always a lot more going on in her stories than it seems. It’s not a simple matter of going to a tower and saving a woman and the woman in needed of saving is not merely a damsel in distress. Cyan Dag is thrown into a myriad of obstacles and events that he was not expecting along the way: coming across plans for an invasion into Yves, powerful bards and mages lurking at every turn and beckoning onward and towers…lots of towers. Each with their own set of problems to overcome. I felt bad for Cyan at one point because all the poor man wanted to do was find the real queen, rescue her and prevent his king from doing anything stupid with the false queen. He didn’t mean to come across a conspiracy, face a dragon and prevent a war from breaking out. He was so confused for a while in the novel…
There are some really interesting concepts and elements that make an appearance throughout the novel, such as Cyan’s ability to see through tricks and magic through his heart or the false queen’s ability to mask her true self. There’s a lot of mysteries and hidden magic to unravel in this story and it’s interesting to read and see how all of the characters, whose stories seem rather disjointed at first, come together and play a role in the overarching storyline.
While there are different characters from different walks of life playing a role in the story, I did not find them as well developed as they could have. Cyan in particular came across as your prototype protagonist, determined to complete his task. His love for Cria did not make much of an impact as it could have been but I like the bits of backstory we get about his service to the king. Nonetheless he could’ve benefitted from more depth into his actions and thoughts. Thayne probably got the most characterisation but even then it was not as striking or as memorable as it could have been. I did however enjoy how pro-active the female characters were in this novel and how great their role was to the progression of the story.
In The Tower at Stony Wood, Patricia McKillip has once again written a beautiful and dreamlike fantasy, familiar and yet unique in its own way. The novel could have been stronger with more characterisation but otherwise I still enjoyed the story.