Thursday, February 25, 2010

With Reverent Hands: The Changeling Sea

With Reverent Hands 

I bring you with reverent hands / the books of my numberless dreams. 
-WB Yeats, "A Poet To His Beloved"

WB Yeats, I'm sure, gave books to his beloved that he valued highly himself, and that he handled with reverence.  If you had to recommend a book you revered to someone, what would it be?

I'm asking you to highlight one book.  One book that you adore, that you prize, that changed your life, that you would save from a burning building, that you found serendipitously on a library shelf or at a used bookstore, looking lonely and ignored.  A book that thrills you but that, you have come to realize, no one else has really ever heard of, much less read.  With Reverent Hands is all about those books- the ones that deserve a wider audience than they are given and that you want everyone to go out and read, even if they are out of print.

If you would like to participate in With Reverent Hands, please comment on this post and I will send you a template! 

This week's post is by Kiirstin who posts at a book a week.  Kiirstin reads across a variety of genres, always aiming to read at least one book each week.  I have seen excellent reviews on her site for many fantasy novels.  She also reviews a lot of Canadian authors that I never would have otherwise come across.  This is also somewhat random, but she has a very distinct gravatar of rainbow socks over which always makes me smile.  I'm pleased that she is participating in With Reverent Hands, and I encourage any fantasy fan (or fans of other genres!) to check out her excellent blog.  Here she is with her book recommendation- one I'm lucky enough to already have on my shelf to read!

What book are you highlighting?
The Changeling Sea, by Patricia A. McKillip

When did you first read it?
Sometime in 2007 or 2008 I think.  I feel like I've known about it forever, but I know that's not the case.  It certainly wasn't the first McKillip I read.

What is it about?  Please give a brief summary.
Peri hates the sea. It stole her father first, sending his fishing boat back without him one evening.  After that, her mother has been lost to it, too, barely rousing herself from watching it to care for her only daughter.  So in a fit of pique, Peri puts a hex on the sea.  What happens next is something Peri could never have foreseen, something with far-reaching effects that will have consequences for many more people than just Peri.
The Changeling Sea

What makes the book stand out to you?  Why do you love it?
The magic of this tale is just wild. It's something I love about all of McKillip's work -- one is never quite sure of the magic, or its limits, or its price.  Stuff happens that goes unexplained, but that doesn't mean it doesn't fit.  The writing is luminous, almost poetic; it just sparkles with mystery and wonder.  Peri is an amazing character, kind and strong and generally quite ordinary.  The setting is simple, but perfect.  Nothing enormous is at stake, at least not in the usual fantasy sense.  The world won't end if Peri doesn't figure things out.  And there is a really lovely romantic story in this book, but it's an unconventional romance.  Finally, it's a perfect little gem of a story -- very short, a novella really.  Sometimes stories like this get dragged out, but the pacing and the length is just perfect.

Please finish this analogy:  If you liked _____________, you'll
probably enjoy this book.
Robin McKinley's books.  Strangely, the closest in writing style and skill I can come to is Michael Ondaatje -- his writing, especially his poetry, has the same shining quality as McKillip's.  Or any other book that is written with a sense of wonder, that leaves some ends untied but makes you want to crawl inside that world and live there.

What sort of person would you recommend to read this book?
Well, everyone, preferably!  But especially lovers of fantasy and fairy tales, of pretty much all ages starting around nine or ten.  I do think that it's a deceptively complex little story that rewards re-reading.

Do you have any quotes you would like to share?

She stood between the spires at the edge of the idle tide, going no farther than that because the sand sloped sharply beyond the spires into deep water.  She lifted the hexes, tied together and weighted with
Kir's message, threw them with all her strength into the sea.

"I hex you," she shouted, searching for words as bitter as brine to cast back at the sea.  "I hate you, I curse you, I lay a hex on you, Sea, so that all your spellbindings will unravel, and all your magic is confused, and so that you never again take anything or anyone who belongs to us, and you let go of whatever you have --"

She stopped, for the hexes, floating lightly along the crest of a wave, had suddenly disappeared.


  1. Oh, I so agree.

    I think if I had to choose a favourite book of all time, I would choose "The Changeling Sea". It is beautiful and lyrical and gentle and wild all at the same time.

    I love McKillip in general, but this is my very favourite of all her books.

    I agree with Kiirsten, everyone should read this book. I'm off to check out her blog, because she obviously has incredible taste.

  2. Dear self: read this book.

    That quote is lovely, and the book sounds so me.

  3. I have read some of her books but this one I have not heard of

  4. Yay! Thanks for letting me participate, Aarti! And thank you so much for your kind words.

  5. Anonymous2/25/2010

    The excerpt is wonderful..
    Would love to read the book.

  6. I have never heard of it, but Kiirsten's enthusiasm for it has more than piqued my interest in this book! I love the quotes she provided and have already put this on my wish list, which is very cool, because I feel a spate of book buying coming on! Great review, though the book falls in a genre I know very little about, I am excited to try it. Absolutely loving this new feature, it really helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

  7. A hex on the sea.. really?? Sounds like a very interesting book. I hadn't heard of this book or author, but it sounds pretty interesting!


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