The Book of Atrix Wolfe
By: Patricia A. McKillip
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Twenty years ago, the powerful mage Atrix Wolfe unleashed an uncontrollable force that killed his beloved king. Now, the Queen of the Wood has offered him one last chance for redemption. She asks him to find her daughter, who vanished into the human world during the massacre he caused. No one has seen the princess-but deep in the kitchens of the Castle of Pelucir, there is a scullery maid who appeared out of nowhere one night long ago. She cannot speak and her eyes are full of sadness. But there are those who call her beautiful.
Another Patricia A. McKillip read, yay! I admit, I initially wasn’t captivated by the premise of this novel when I first was checking out her books but a re-read of the book blurb some time ago changed my mind. I also read somewhere that this novel lent a lot from folklore so I was curious to see how the author used those elements into this story.
My first impression about this novel is that it’s a lot darker than the other books of hers that I read. The impression this book gives is that it’s always dark or night in Pelucir, filled with ghosts of the past and a foreboding sense of trouble in the future. Even the dreams are haunted by a sense of sadness, sorrow, and an inkling of vengeance. Despite of this, I also had to chuckle because the book kept referring about the winter and how endless it was and I couldn’t help but remember Game of Thrones. Was GRRM influenced by this book by any chance?” No (though the books were published around the same time), but it’s an amusing thought.
The characters and their respective storylines were also interesting. They are converge and play a role in teh larger storyline concerning the Hunter and the Queen of the Wood and Atrix Wolfe’s involvement in the last war. I think Atrix Wolfe is one of the most complex characters I’ve seen in Patricia A. McKillip’s work, if not the most complex: he is a mage haunted by the decisions he had made during the war, the promises he broke, the suffering he caused. He spends the first half of the novel being dragged reluctantly into the fray and the strange things happening to Prince Talis. Saro was also a curious character and I enjoyed all of the kitchen workers who surrounded her; they provided some humour to alleviate the tension from the rest of the story.
Overall The Book of Atrix Wolfe is a sombre but fascinating read involving themes of guilt, regret, sorrow, loss and the power of words. The latter is especially interesting as it ties to a general theme that the author often refers to in her works. If you’re a reader of fantasy or enjoyed her other works, be sure to check out this novel.