Living among the wolves to escape the mistakes of his past, a shape-changer senses that danger is approaching the mountains he has come to love and finds a chance at redemption at the side of a special woman. Reprint. LJ.
The story follows the chain of events that occur one cold winter night during the bitter siege on the castle of Pelucir, the night that the Great Mage Atrix Wolfe breaks the laws set down by the Mages of Chaumenard and in his attempts to end the war creates a creature of the darkest emotions and most destructive magic...the legendary Hunter. That is the same night when the mysterious being known as the Queen of the Wood's consort and their daughter disappears into the human world by the rent in the realms the Hunter's creation has caused. Now years later, both the horrors of that night and the mage seem to have disappeared into the realm of legend and bitter memory...until the discovery by the Prince-mage Talis Pelducir of a book whose words are not what they appear to be and the attempts of the Queen of the Wood to find her long-lost daughter Saro cause the return of the Hunter and the final confrontation between Atrix Wolfe and the nightmare he has been running from for the last twenty years...
The sleeping beauty on the Kinuko Craft cover may do justice to the loveliness of the princess-turned-scullery-maid (at least prior to her transformation by the mage), but it doesn't capture her incredible will to survive after she is torn from her parents and dumped, naked and alone, into an alien universe. Yes, she ends up as a scullery maid, thought to be mute and retarded by her fellow kitchen workers. Yes, she scrubs pots from dawn to midnight. But the prince's kitchen turns out to be lively and warm, and filled with an eccentric hierarchy of cooks, sauce makers, plate washers, mincers, pluckers, boners, choppers, and spit-boys. McKillip goes into loving detail over the making and serving of food fit for a King's table, and when the princess Saro finally leaves the washing cauldron to fulfill her destiny, I for one felt a faint tinge of regret.
Who would have thought that a medieval kitchen could be a more interesting place to linger than a fairy forest where "water flowed, silver and sweet as honey among ancient roots"?
"The Book of Atrix Wolfe" stands many fairy tale truisms on their heads, including the character of the evil, all-powerful mage. In this story, the mage Atrix Wolfe creates the deadly Hunter that almost destroys the prince's family, but he does so with the intention of stopping a war. The Hunter himself is Death, but even he is not precisely evil. The prince rescues the princess, but only after she steals his book of spells in an attempt to teach herself how to read.
Patricia McKillip may have started out with a fairy tale in mind, but what she wrote was ornate, fascinating, and completely her own.
Where this book really comes alive for me is in the descriptions of the food. I would gladly eat any of the food prepared in that kitchen. If I owned this book, I would mark all those passages and re-read them often.
If atmosphere and evocative mood are what you look for in a book, give it a try; if you prefer real, well-developed characters and compelling plots, I suggest you try something else.