McKILLIP, Patricia A(nne)
   US writer whose early books were all fantasy, mostly for children. These showed an increasing assurance (and appeared to be for increasingly older children) from The House on Parchment Street (1973) through The Throme of the Erril of Sherill (1973; exp with "The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath" (1982) as coll 1984) and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (1974), an assurance which culminated in the Riddle-Master trilogy: The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), Heir of Sea and Fire (1978) and Harpist in the Wind (1979), assembled as Riddle of Stars (omni 1979; vtThe Chronicles of Morgon, Prince of Hed 1981 UK). It has been argued, by Peter NICHOLLS in Survey of Modern Fantastic Literature (1983) ed Frank N. Magill, that the trilogy is a work of classic stature: the intricate narrative of its quest story echoes a moral complexity almost unheard-of in fantasy trilogies; PAM's protagonist has a special skill at unravelling riddles and, through a series of strategies (including subliminal hints as little obvious as leaves in a forest) not unlike those adopted by Gene WOLFE in his Book of the New Sun series (1980-83), she forces the readeralso to become a decipherer of codes. Thus the book's meaning is enacted by the way it must be read. While in no way resembling sf, the trilogy contains one of the most sophisticated uses of the shapeshifter theme to be found anywhere in sf or fantasy.Her sf proper began with the poignant Kyreol sequence for young adults: Moon-Flash (1984) and The Moon and theFace (1985). Much as in her fantasy books, the central theme is CONCEPTUAL BREAKTHROUGH, in this case from an Edenic but primitive POCKET UNIVERSE, Riverworld, which turns out to be an isolated corner of a planet containing the way station of an interstellar civilization, and the protected object of anthropological study. FOOL'S RUN (1987), which is adult sf, retells the Orpheus myth in a story of a woman visionary who has been found guilty of mass murder and is incarcerated in a prison satellite, the Underworld; it is memorable for its evocative sequences about future MUSIC.PAM's sf is unusual and well written, but perhaps she is more at home with fantasy, to which she returned with the haunting The Sorceress and the Cygnet (1991) - and its sequel, The Cygnet and theFirebird (1994) - set in a land where star constellations manifest themselves as gods or people and transform the mutable human world into ageless story.
   Other works: The Night Gift (1976), marginal fantasy; Stepping from the Shadows (1982), a possibly autobiographical novel about the growing-up of a fantasy writer; The Changeling Sea (1988), young-adult fantasy; Brian Froud's Faerielands: Something Rich and Strange (1994).

Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. . 2011.

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