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In The Forests Of Serre [Paperback]

Patricia A. McKillip
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 31 2004
In the tales of World Fantasy Award-winning author Patricia McKillip, nothing is ever as it seems. A mirror is never just a mirror; a forest is never just a forest. Here, it is a place where a witch can hide in her house of bones and a prince can bargain with his heart...where good and evil entwine and wear each others' faces... and where a bird with feathers of fire can quench the fiercest longing...

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From Amazon

Like Ursula K. Le Guin and Jane Yolen, World Fantasy Award winner Patricia A. McKillip (author of Riddle-Master, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, and Ombria in Shadow) is one of the great fantasy authors working at the turn of the millennium. In her beautifully written novel In the Forests of Serre, McKillip again demonstrates her intimate understanding of the mysteries of magic and the human heart.

Everyone in the kingdom of Serre avoids the Mother of All Witches, an ugly, powerful, and dangerous woman who lives in the Forest of Serre. But then the grief-blinded Prince of Serre rides down the witch's white hen and earns her curse. Prince Ronan believes nothing can be worse than what he has already experienced: the death of his wife and their newborn. But soon the curse destroys what little the prince has left, and he wanders lost and half-mad through the Forest of Serre, pursuing a beautiful, elusive firebird that may be an illusion, or his doom. His only hope may be the young Princess Sidonie of Dacia, to whom his brutal father betrothed him against his will... and hers. But Princess Sidonie may have no interest in helping a man she's never met. And her powerful, mysterious magician-guardian, Gyre, has secret intentions and desires of his own. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a twist on the Biblical adage "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," McKillip (Ombria in Shadow) presents a mystical, eerie fantasy about the flight from love-and the haphazard progress toward love. The efforts of a kingdom to prevent war by sacrificing its princess, Sidonie, to a loveless marriage are complicated by the refusal of the intended bridegroom, Prince Ronan of Serre, to cooperate. Sidonie obeys to save her country from sure destruction. Ronan flees from his fate with the magical interference of the Forests of Serre, the mysterious witch Brume and a firebird whose song becomes a pied piper-like enchantment. Meetings with Brume exact a dear price, and nearly every character encounters her at some point. To some, Brume can be death itself; others merely have to give her something of great value. Ronan offers "what of all such things he valued least, and would not miss if he did not return for it. `Take my heart.'" And indeed, Brume does take his heart. Ronan doesn't seem to miss what he felt he lacked to begin with, but Sidonie does, and so do his parents. This novel is similar in style and content to McKillip's World Fantasy Award-winning story, "The Forgotten Beasts of Eld," which is not to say it's a rehash. A skillfully told adult fairy tale, it stands perfectly well on its own.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In the forests of Serre, Prince Ronan crossed paths with the Mother of All Witches when he rode down her white hen in a desolate stretch of land near his father's summer palace. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking. Feb. 7 2004
This is one of a handful of books I've felt compelled to re-read. As with everything by McKillip, the language is pure bliss -luxurious and finely woven, seducing the mind like the best poetry. Yet, beyond even that, is an underlying sense of the wisdom which pervades this novel -wisdom that attends suffering and forebearance, kindness and charity.
I think the few complaints about characterisation stem from a failure to appreciate McKillip's deliberate homage to the allegorical nature of the traditional fairy tale. Personally, I found everyone from the scribe to the Queen to be brilliantly unique yet still representative of an archtype.
"In the Forests of Serre" is the best novel McKillip has written in the past few years.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful prose,but... Jan. 24 2004
I had high hopes for this book after thoroughly enjoying the Riddlemaster books. Those combined McKillip's wonderful prose with fully developed characters with whom the reader becomes deeply involved. This book had the wonderful prose, but the characters were flat and I simply never got to the point of really caring what happened.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Prince and the Firebird Aug. 5 2003
In the Forests of Serre is a fantasy novel with a Slavic style. Prince Ronan has lost his wife and child and, after burning their bodies on the funeral byre and scattering their ashes in the river, he has ridden away to war with rebels in southern Serre, hoping to die in battle. His father, King Fergus, sends a messenger and a troop of soldiers to order him to come home. Ronan obeys his father, returning with the wounded warriors and escorted by the troop of soldiers. As he crosses a wasteland, his horse steps on a white hen. Ronan is soon made aware by the witch Brume that the crushed bird is hers and she bids him to pluck the chicken for her pot and invites him and his companion to enter her house and drink the broth. Ronan refuses her bidding and invitation three times and is then informed that he will have a bad day.
When Ronan reaches his home, the king wastes no time telling him that he will marry Princess Sidonie in four days. Although Ronan tries to demur from this wedding, saying that he is still grieving his lost wife and child, the king refuses to delay the wedding and, when Ronan continues to deny his command, the king puts Ronan under guard prior to the ceremony. Ronan's mother is sympathetic but is powerless to change the king's plans.
While Ronan is in his guarded room, he sees the Firebird in the forest and hears her singing. Ronan leaves his room, walks down the staircase and, while the guards are following him at a slower pace, slips out of the castle gates and down the cliff to the forest. There he follows the Firebird, running and running, then standing still to watch and listen, and then running again. He is soon lost in the woods, enthralled by the beauty and song of the Firebird.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Firebird and the Crone July 12 2003
Reading "In the Forests of Serre" is like walking into someone else's dream. You enter a rich forest of metaphor, sometimes only partially glimpsed but always beautiful. A standard fairy-tale plot is overgrown with jeweled birds and foxes with little golden crowns--Kinuko Y. Craft's cover art is a perfect match for McKillip's writing--but the story's end might still come as a surprise.
The prince and princess both have some growing up to do through the labyrinthine course of the book. I picked the wrong villain, someone very like the villain in McKillip's "Song for a Basilisk" but who is redeemed in this book by his love for the kingdom of Serre.
Speaking of villains, see if you can guess whose heart was enclosed in a casket inside the ribcage of a dragon---you also need guess where it went after the wizards Gyre and Unciel opened the casket. Many hearts go missing throughout the story and not all of them are returned to their true owners.
The Baba Yaga-like witch, Brume and her walking hovel, and her chickens, and her stewpot full of human bones form a striking counterpoint to the beautiful firebird-woman who flies through the Forest of Serre and steals men's hearts with her song. Are either or both of them evil? Are they two faces of the same wild magic? McKillip doesn't give a direct answer to these questions (at least none that I could discern) so you'll have to decide for yourself as you read her story. Both Prince Ronan and Princess Sidonie have to face their own worst fears in Brume's hut, and they are different people when they finally emerge.
The firebird seems to enter and escape the Crone's hut at will--another of McKillip's symbols for death and rebirth, or change?
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing jewel of a tale July 9 2003
By A Customer
In The Forests of Serre, McKillip has released yet another beautifully crafted story. I love her work so well, that I simply buy whatever she puts out immediately. Again, I was not dissapointed. Drawing me in swiftly, I would argue that this is one of her best so far. "Ombria in Shadow" left me desiring something, though it too was a lovely tale, but Forests has more than made up for it. Deceptively simple, her work will leave you pondering afterward. In a class far above most fantasy, I could argue that it be sold in the Literature section, rather than fastasy, as it is fantastic in more than genre.
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