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  • Writer's pictureLa Crimson Femme

Review: Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip

This review is going to be more of a homage to Ms. McKillip. I am shocked she passed away with nary a news article. I wouldn't have known if her death had not been posted in a FaceBook Group. Even then I looked her up in the news, there were conflicting dates for when she passed. Since she is on my list of books to catch up with, this will be about the lovely fantasy - Alphabet of Thorn.

I find the later Ms. McKilip to be more esoteric and fanciful in ways. Some of her stories have such loss and no-win situations. In this one, there is much sacrifice and when the story pulls together at the end, I am saddened by what happens. This story starts out with Nepenthe trying to accomplish a feat no one else in the kingdom has been able to do. Sometimes, mysteries are best left unsolved.

I am mixed about this bittersweet ending. Because there are two sides to every story. What if we were to see from the male perspective in this book? What would his thoughts be on his woman's decision? Keep in mind, I read this book and many of my fantasy books during a period of my life when males were only barely allies and mostly the adversary in my life. I look back and see why this story appealed so much to me and why I loved the ending. Now, I'm not so sure and I wonder if perhaps we are too harsh on half of our population which is one of the reasons why they behave the way they do. These are obviously philosophical conjectures that could go either way. What I can say, is this is a book with a melancholy tone that permeates through to the conclusion. For those who look for happily ever afters, this is not exactly the book for you.

For those of us who like unfinished stories. For those of us who don't see the world in black or white anymore, this book makes me think and want to break it down in an English class discussion. I think this would have been great to read in my AP literature class in high school. Ms. McKillip weaves a complicated tale in all her books and I love how they make me think. The world has lost a great writer. Her works will live on and touch many lives. This fantasy is recommended to readers who enjoy something different than the usual quest or warfare.


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