By: Patricia A. McKillip
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Brenden Vetch has a gift. With an innate sense he cannot explain to himself or describe to others, he connects to the agricultural world, nurturing gardens to flourish and instinctively knowing the healing properties each plant and herb has to offer. But Brenden’s gift isolates him from people—and from becoming part of a community. Until the day he receives a personal invitation from the wizard Od. She needs a gardener for her school in the great city of Kelior, where every potential wizard must be trained to serve the Kingdom of Numis. For decades the rulers of Numis have controlled the school, believing they can contain the power within it—and punish any wizard who dares defy the law. But unknown to the reigning monarchy is the power possessed by the school’s new gardener—a power that even Brenden isn’t fully aware of, and which is the true reason Od recruited him…
Okay, I wanted to hold off on reading this book because I wanted to savour the remaining Patricia McKillip books I haven’t read yet (right now it was this book and the Riddlemaster trilogy on my to-read shelf). But her books have a tendency of calling out to me, begging me to read them next. Plus the premise of the novel seemed rather fitting for the spring season as the main character has a gift for nurturing gardens and handling natural elements. So I gave in =P
Like most of Patricia McKillip’s novels, there is more than meets the eye with this story. Od Magic was an interesting read touching on themes of restriction and risk, of really listening to people, of illusion and possibility. The Kingdom of Numis is quite authoritarian in that all magic practitionerers must be known to the Crown, their abilities curbed and their lessons restricted according to what the king allows and forbids. Anything stronger or “wilder” or unknown is considered against the law in Numis. Over the course of the novel, this way of life, this thinking is questioned especially as many of the characters that populate this novel are stronger or express unique abilities of their own.
While Brenden is the main character who starts off the novel, who serves as the catalyst to many of the other events that took place throughout the novel, and through whom the reader is brought into the story, he doesn’thave as many scenes compared to Yar or Sulys or Mitral. His character development was not fleshed out or as obvious as I thought it would have been but nonetheless he is an integral part of what brought all of the characters and their respective storylines together. I especially felt for Sulys’ storyline; I could feel her frustration for being constantly overlooked by her father the king and later by her constantly-distracted and pseudo-antagonist Valoren, and was rooting for her all the way through. While Od makes the odd appearance (pun intended?), her presence is felt throughout the story, and when she does appear, she’s quite larger than life and a delight to read.
Od Magic did have its occasional dull moments, particularly when everyone was searching for whoever in the Twilight Quarter, but otherwise it was an intriguing and wonderful read, another fantastic McKillip title. Perhaps not what I was entirely expecting–a lot more time was spent behind walls and running amongst alleyways and street corners than on plants and nature and open air–but it was magical, mysterious and thoughtful nonetheless.