Morgon, prince of the small island of Hed, is known for asking questions, and is skilled at unraveling puzzles. Now that his parents have died, though, he has no wish to become a Riddle-Master, content to be land-ruler of Hed and live in peace with his brother and sister. Hed is a quiet land, protected by the elusive High One, who rules the realm from the remote Erlenstar Mountain.
Peace, however, is not long in lasting. The three stars on Morgon’s forehead, unexplained in the strictures of riddle-mastery, mark his future as far from ordinary, and an ancient riddle leads him onto a path which winds across the realm. He finds himself on a journey which leads him to land-rulers and wraiths, wizards and forgotten wars, propelled by a destiny no one fully understands. As the trilogy continues, Morgon gains the help of Deth, the High One’s Harpist; Raederle, who has a way with magic which has eluded generations; Lyra, a fiery, determined warrior; and many others.
But asking questions can be dangerous. And the stars on Morgon’s forehead pull him into a web of riddles which, if answered, could reignite a conflict which would tear the realm apart.
I’ve read a lot of fantasy books, and the Riddle-Master Trilogy (beginning with The Riddle-Master of Hed) is truly outstanding. The characters are powerful, multi-layered, and original (both Morgon and Raederle narrate the story), and I loved the world itself as well—each kingdom is distinct, with its own history and traditions. It’s worth noting that the beginning is a little confusing, but keep reading—it makes sense quickly! The copy I read had all three books in one volume, and I read them all at once, which I would highly recommend doing. Each component of the story builds on each other, coming together in a brilliant trilogy climax, and it’s worth fully immersing yourself in the stories. McKillip’s writing is stunning as well, beautiful and vivid.
Most fantasy stories share similar elements and characters, but while the Riddle-Master books do have many components of classic fantasies, the story itself is remarkably unique. Twists and secrets keep the full story hidden until the very end, and weave a pattern of riddles and discoveries which make them impossible to put down. Lyrical, absorbing, and complex, I would highly recommend the Riddle-Master Trilogy to readers ages 11 and up, especially for fans of the Lord of the Rings and the Earthsea Cycle.
Note from Piranha T: I love this trilogy, too! If you like it, Patricia A. McKillip has written many other amazing books, including The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Ombria in Shadow, both of which won the World Fantasy Award.