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5.0 out of 5 stars elegant, subtle and complex
This is my first book by Patricia McKillip, and I was very pleased. I read some reviewer who called this book "luxurious", and I would definitely agree. Like all luxuries, it isn't essential, but my what a nice read it is nonetheless. If you have exhausted all the essential fantasy reading, like Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, and others, this is a good place...
Published on Dec 4 2003 by Clinton D. Davis

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2.0 out of 5 stars confusion at mckillip's worst
I love McKillip's writing. But this story was a disappointment. I'm happy to see that others enjoyed it (it's always good to see that what you don't like makes someone else happy), but I wouldn't recommend Tower at Stony Wood. It's an extremely poor representation of McKillip's storytelling talent.
The premise of the story is somewhat intriguing and holds a bit of...
Published on Aug. 9 2003


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5.0 out of 5 stars elegant, subtle and complex, Dec 4 2003
By 
Clinton D. Davis (Norman, OK United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tower At Stony Wood (Paperback)
This is my first book by Patricia McKillip, and I was very pleased. I read some reviewer who called this book "luxurious", and I would definitely agree. Like all luxuries, it isn't essential, but my what a nice read it is nonetheless. If you have exhausted all the essential fantasy reading, like Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, and others, this is a good place to take a breather. If you haven't read anything else by the author, the first thing you need to do is have a look at the cover. Now, be informed that the book reads in a similar manner. Lots of details, lots of color. Somewhere in there is the story, and you have to just let the story emerge, because it will. No, you don't know all the answers, you don't have an omnipotent point of view, but be comforted that the elegant twists of plot near the end will resolve whatever it is that confused you in an earlier chapter. And details are important here.
Speaking of the story, its chock full of knights and damsels, of magical creatures and enchanted realms. Not a lot of romance here, nor a great deal of swashbuckling action, just good nebulous, lush reading. Very post-modern, very well done. I'll read more of her stuff, and I would suggest that any lover of good fantasy should do the same.
If Tolkien is an epic Beethoven sonata, then this is a sumptuous Rachmaninov prelude. As in piano music, enjoy them both for what they are.
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2.0 out of 5 stars confusion at mckillip's worst, Aug. 9 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Tower At Stony Wood (Paperback)
I love McKillip's writing. But this story was a disappointment. I'm happy to see that others enjoyed it (it's always good to see that what you don't like makes someone else happy), but I wouldn't recommend Tower at Stony Wood. It's an extremely poor representation of McKillip's storytelling talent.
The premise of the story is somewhat intriguing and holds a bit of the spiritual depth McKillip usually brings out in a story. But not only are the 'twists' exceedingly confusing-- they're weak and hardly convincing. McKillip's usual strength at writing strong and beuatiful sentences is not to be found here-- many weak and confusing sentences instead. The three interweaving stories and protagonists were never developed enough for me to actually 'care' for them or believe in them. Many scenes are hard to visualize and are, yes, weak and unconvincing.
I hate to sound so negative, but McKillip has set her own standards high, so this is to her credit. Do try her first trilogy, the Riddle Master, for a fantasy classic-- exquisite storytelling AND writing that deserves more credit from the literary world outside of this genre.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intricate, July 14 2002
By 
Kelly (Fantasy Literature) (Columbia, MO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tower At Stony Wood (Paperback)
The reader below gave up on _The Tower at Stony Wood_ after the fight with the "monster" in the woods, which is too bad, since it doesn't really get good until that point. It took me a couple of weeks of sporadic reading to get to that point (maybe 1/3 of the way in), and an day of fanatical reading to finish the rest.
I started the book because I wanted to see what McKillip, with her talent for wordplay and complicated magic, would do to get the "Lady of Shalott" out of her predicament. How do you save a woman who will die if she leaves her prison? But _Tower_ goes far beyond that seed of a story, meandering through subplots that don't seem relevant until the end, weaving a complex tapestry of old grudges, old debts, love, and magic. For along the way to save the Lady, the knight Cyan Dag must sort out several other problems. (See the editorial review for a darn good plot summary.) In the end, _Tower_ is a deeper and more complicated story than it seemed on the surface, and richer than _Ombria in Shadow_ , which is prettily written but relies on cardboard Good and cardboard Evil to carry the plot.
Not quite as enchanting as _Winter Rose_, IMHO, but in the same league as _The Sorceress and the Cygnet_. Fairly standard McKillip, and "standard" for her means "very good".
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1.0 out of 5 stars Weak Characterization, Dec 4 2001
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This review is from: Tower At Stony Wood (Paperback)
I'm sorry to say (really, I am) that I found this book to be a disappoinment, not to mention way overpriced. It started off promising--the romance between Cyan and Cria, for example, was intriguing, and I immediately liked Cyan. I was also intrigued by the imagery the author presented in the dragon, and the woman embroidering in the tower. However, by page one hundred, I was asking myself why I cared about any of this.
McKillip's writing style is highly poetic and doesn't really focus on emotions--it's all basically imagery, imagery, imagery. Do these characters even have emotions? It was impossible to get to know them when the only clues to their behavoir are their actions. Also, I personally think there were too many characters in this book, with not enough focus on them. If you're only going to have a character appear for five pages of the book, then forget about him/her, what's the point of even putting them in?
As I said, McKillip has great imagery style, but her action scenes are simply confusing--it's hard to tell who is doing what. The first action scene, where Cyan is attacked in the forest by a "monster" is what truly lost me on the story.
THE TOWER AT STONY WOOD is an okay fantasy, but I don't think it deserves the kind of praise it is getting; it's certainly not the best fairy tale-like fantasy published recently, and I wouldn't pay full price for it even in the paperback version. Get it from the library.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good plot, characters are a little hard to get to know, Aug. 10 2001
By 
A. Roberts - See all my reviews
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This book is not what it seems. The king is getting married, but one of his knights is tipped off to look at the kings wife while she dances. As he sees her shadow move to the music he learns there is more to this "girl" than meets the eye. Confronted by the monster the king married, he goes off to find the real girl who he learns is being kept in a tower.
A woman is in another tower, sewing scenes no one but her seems to see. She too has a secret.
Another man goes off looking for yet another tower to find a hidden treasure guarded by a dragon. This man has issues because his country has been taken away.
These three people have little in common, except the towers that are so part of why they are where they are. It is strange how they are all put together.
The plot is good, the charcters are blah. Patricia A. McPhillips has a problem getting the reader to care about the characters, such as in "The book of Atrix Wolfe" but the book is worth the read, plot is wonderful. I enjoyed it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Let's get lost!, Aug. 7 2001
This book is beautifully written, but it is rather a challenge to follow the plot. This is the case with many of McKillip's books: the prose is imaginative and lyrical, but the plots are convoluted. Too much thinking, dammit! (Actually, this is good, but thank goodness there are also books where the sentences can only have one possible meaning.) There are three basic plotlines in the book: the quest of the knight Cyan Dag to rescue the Lady of Skye, the quest of Thayne Ysse (any guesses at pronunciation?) to capture a dragon and free his impoverished island from thralldom, and my favorite, the quest of Sel the selkie to recover the lost magic/strength within her. (Sel is not introduced until about a third of the way through the book, which is somewhat annoying.) Up until then, there are a bunch of loose threads, told from the perspectives of different characters. More and more perspectives are added, until one begins to feel that they are just reading a bunch of short stories with no endings. However, just as Sel patches together her knowledge, the author patches the tales together. In fact, in the end, everything is "patched-up", all hunky-dory and neat. If you like the picture on the cover, you'll probably like what's in the book. Kinuko Craft and Patricia McKillip are a great match-up for those of us who may not entirely judge, but are often attracted to a book by initially looking at its cover.
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4.0 out of 5 stars McKillip Shifts Her Setting To Courtly Space, Nov. 21 2000
By 
Elyon (Mesilla, New Mexico) - See all my reviews
The setting of this tale is somewhat of a departure for Patricia McKillip, a shift to the courtly and non-courtly space of French romance, and reminiscent in structure to the works of Chretien de Troyes. Beginning in the knightly court of Yves, the hero, Cyan Dag, is forced on a quest to protect the realm and his king from sorcery brought into the court from outside in the form of the king's new wife. Like many of the early tales of Arthurian romance, this alien influence threatens the stability and welfare of the court. Much of the tale revolves, in the best romantic tradition, allegorically and metaphorically around the questing knight's adventures, fraught with magic, with the visible world rarely being what it seems.
Actually three stories in one, existing separately and yet reflections of one other, intertwined around the richly laden implications of this number and woven with McKillip's lyrical and vivid prose, this is without doubt the author's most complex and least accessible tale to date, requiring close attention and probably additional reading for full enjoyment. This is not difficult, given the author's often beautiful prose and compelling imagery, yet in some ways I feel this is also, despite its many rewards, McKillip's least successful work to date. The opening chapters begin rather perfunctorily, compared to the author's earlier work, somewhat self-consciously and artificially shifting back and forth between the lady in the mirror and the events taking shape at the court of Yves. While this serves the story's romantic (read as French or Arthurian, not Harlequin) structure, it is somewhat awkward in composition compared to McKillip's previous introductions. And the conclusion is rather summary and contrived, leaving the reader, regardless of the marvelous final paragraph---as some others have noted---dissatisfied.
Nonetheless, this is an ambitious work, again exploring themes present in her earlier books: the meaning behind words, the dual nature of perception and magic, the world that exists just beyond our glimpse. And, despite my complaints regarding the book's structure, which lends at times an artificial and rigid construction to the story, it exists as an essential and intentionally informing element to the narrative. You will have to decide whether its contribution justifies the occasional abandonment of story elements in favor of a more strict and consciously referential plot construction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Silken prose and prickly knights!, July 29 2000
By 
Stephen Richmond "Librarian/Teacher/Reader an... (Newton, Massachusetts) - See all my reviews
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There are a very small number of writers who are extraordinary literary stylists. Patricia A. McKillip is one such and this latest novel reads like honey-coated silk. Her stories, always larger than life fairy tale romps in darkened woods, while maintaining a certain strength of characterization and intricate plots, become, at times, almost secondary to the beautiful prose in which they are written. This particular story, based loosely on Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott and more specifically on Loreena McKennitt's song of the same name, tells of a woman, cursed half-mad with love who is locked away in a tower to observe the happenings of the world from her magic mirror, not the window of her chamber. The hero is of course a knight in the grandest of Lancelotian traditions, full of angst and some self-doubt, all kept well-hidden beneath the virilest exteriors. The tale is truly great fun, but again it is the magnificently wrought prose that makes reading such a divine pleasure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mckillip (and McKennitt), June 30 2000
By 
Gerald J. Ross "jerberoni" (Monroeville, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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I adore Patricia McKillip. I want to sit on a carpet near a fire in a room somewhere and listen for snatches and bits of stories she tells. Her words dance, a compliment many may not truly recognize, but that is why I love her. Her lyricism is is simply beautiful. Her stories are so different from each other, yet they all seem to share a common theme of self-discovery and I find it hard to believe I FEEL for each of her characters. They live their passions and I find things to understand, if not admire in even her hardest creations. (I'm thinking of two Broadway shows this season that failed for just that reason. Characters lived great extremes within their tawdry realities but I could not like them!) Her bad guys are the ones who have shuttered off parts of themselves for any number of reasons; lust for power, passion, boredom, yet they all maintain a nobility. Even Draken Saphier, McKillip's one true villain, is someone I am curious about! In "The Tower at Stony Wood", Ms. McKillip has ascended to new heights of the enigmatic. I have no ability to guess where her tales will lead (I'm pretty dumb that way and enjoy getting lost in the journey) so it was much to my surprise to find myself at a "happily-ever-after." The way the end of "The Changeling Sea" was really Peri's beginning: how Saro's new tale starts when she asks, "Tell me all your names", that's what I pretty much expected. It never occurred to me that the real story of "The Tower at Stony Wood" was to be one of a girl who, for love, forced her father to disown her, despite the intercession of his sworn king. This is a far cry from the ages of peaceful solitude ahead for Morgan and Raederle, yet similar to Sybil's desire to be taken home, but the twistings of this book, as it twines back into itself are brilliant. Horray for Cyan Dag (the green knight who holds the holly bush?) and thanks to the friend who introduced Ms.McKillip to Lorena McKennitt. How she expanded the thought that ".. the wind is full of a thousand voices.." into a full novel and captured in writing what McKennitt does musically is mesmerizing and astonishing! I want MORE!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A confusing knightly quest, June 26 2000
By 
Celeste Chang (USA) - See all my reviews
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Patricia McKillip brings us a good old knightly quest. I was reminded of reading Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur as a child, except that this being McKillip, she adds an extra level of confusion to the story. Well, the protagonists in the three main threads of the tale (reminiscent of the braided stories in Le Morte D'Arthur where the knights have separate adventures before coming together again) seem equally confused. None of them find what they thought they wanted.
The knight, Cyan Dag, faces a bewildering proliferation of towers, as foreshadowed by the three golden towers on his coat of arms. His only guide is his generous heart. He follows his instincts as he is sent on a quest to rescue a damsel presumed in distress. His journey intersects those of Melanthos, the selkie's daughter, and Thayne Ysse, heir to a conquered kingdom. Their fates seem to get woven together by mysterious sorcerous sisters.
As usual, McKillip takes us through a lovingly depicted, shifting landscape full of odd people and enigmatic magic: a dragon, a bard, a baker who is also a selkie, towers, mirrors, and the difference between weaving and embroidery. Read her for her poetry, not her world-building: I never got the sense that her world was somewhere I could live in, outside this one dreamlike bubble. Her characters are real enough, though, with believable motivations and anxieties.
I enjoyed reading this novel, but found myself not entirely satisfied at the end. A little too much confusion, not quite enough resolution at the end, leaving me with a sense of ``That's it? So what did it all mean! '' Yes, she provided explanations, and everything more or less made sense, but it didn't connect with me in a visceral way. Maybe it was that Cyan Dag's attachment to his lover was so important to the plot, but since she does not go on a quest, we never really see her. I recommend this book, but it is not my favorite McKillip.
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Tower at Stoney Wood
Tower at Stoney Wood by Patricia A. McKillip (School & Library Binding - Dec 2003)
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