“We may be seeing only the remnants of something long gone from this world. Maybe you and I were just born with primitive eyes. Or hearts. Born with a gift for something that doesn’t exist anywhere any longer, and the recognition, the longing for it is all we’ll ever know.”
LOVED this book. McKillip has been a favorite author of mine for...goodness, I don't even know how long! And this did not disappoint.
Based in the town of Caerau, The Bards of Bone Plain tells two stories: one is of the "present", where young Phelan Cle is trying to write his final paper for the Bardic College and finds more than he bargained for, and the other the tale of Nairn the Bard, the subject of his paper. The chapters set in the past are all begun with excerpts from Phelan's paper, which makes a really nice narrative framework, and eases the reader between time periods with grace. The story of Nairn's search for power and music (and power IN music) is just as interesting as the struggles of Princess Beatrice, Phelan, Jonah Cle (Phelan's oft drunk, mysterious father), and Zoe (the magic voiced bard and friend of Phelan) in the present. Phelan's search for the mysteries of the Bone Plain, written about in poetry, but never conclusively identified in history, leads him on a journey he doesn't expect.
As usual, McKillip has a way with descriptive language, as applies to both location and character. I never had a problem visualizing what was going on; more importantly, I never had a problem sympathizing with the characters either, even when I didn't understand why. This book had a special charm for me, as all the magic and the story are linked to music. As a musician myself, watching her manipulate a medium I understand so well was truly lovely.
I burned through this book like wild fire. It's definitely one I'll read again, though perhaps not with the frequency of Winter Rose (nothing will replace that book in my heart). If you love fantasy, especially if you love McKillip's style of fantasy, this is a must read.