Revisiting Patricia A. McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

What do you remember when you think of books you read long, long ago? Plot? Character? Setting? Or something more nebulous?

I tend to remember how a book felt, which is about as nebulous as things get. There’s usually one lingering image in my very visual-reader brain, as well. Jo Clayton’s Serroi books feel defiant, a small green girl in a looming landscape. Melanie Rawn’s dragon books are regal, but there’s one image of a picnic that I can never shake, and another of a valley.

Patricia A. McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, on the other hand, is a mountain home, a dragon, solitude, and defensiveness. Rereading the book, which Tachyon Publications just reissued, was a singular experience: marrying those feelings with what actually happens in the book, which both is and is not what I remember.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was first published in 1974, ...

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

Finders Keepers: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

“That night, everybody lost something,” Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s Spellbook of the Lost and Found begins. “Not everybody noticed.” The lost things are small or large, tangible or less so, valuable or personal or some combination of the above. They slipped away during a bonfire party, the kind that goes on probably too long and ends when you fall asleep in a field in the wee hours of the morning.

And somehow, Fowley-Doyle’s sentences feel like those nights—like the lull at the end of a party when questionable choices are so easy to make. Olive wakes up the next day missing a shoe and her best friend, Rose. She and Rose went to the party to get drunk and cry, which seems like a perfectly valid reason to go to a party. But three other girls—Holly, Laurel, and Ash—went because their diaries were missing.

It’s what they found that sets Spellbook in motion.

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Winter Is Seriously Here: What Happened on Season Six of Game of Thrones

If you’ve got ten or so hours to spare between now and July 16th, I highly recommend binge-devouring season six of Game of Thrones, even—or maybe especially—if you watched it when it aired last year. What seemed, week to week, like an inconsistent, fairly unsatisfying season (certain moments aside) turns out to be a solid stretch of narrative setup and motion when you gulp it down in a sitting or three. Every season of intrigue and betrayal moves the narrative forward, but finally, by the end of season three, the pieces are in intriguing place on the board—places that suggest season seven will be a battle of consolidation and compromise as various parties begin to take the Night King’s threat seriously. There’s going to be war. Everyone’s talking about it. But who’s left to fight? Spoilers for all previous seasons follow, but I’ll leave the books out of ...

One Day You Wake Up and You Are Grown: Fairyland and the Secrets of Growing Up

There are a dozen essays a person could write about Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. One is entirely about the literary allusions and references. Another simply describes all her magical inventions and locations, from the Carriageless Horse to the Narrative Barometer, the Autumn Province to the Lonely Gaol. There’s a really good piece to be written about one of the rules of Fairyland-Below—what goes down must come up—and the way no one stays in the underworld for good, forever, even a shadow. This is a different essay. This one is about change and subversion, and mostly about how magically a book can rewrite the story of growing up. Note: this essay discusses plot points from Books 1-4, but contains no spoilers for Book 5. Many books for young readers, for a very long time, have drawn a very distinct line between being a kid and being an adult, between the ...
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You Cannot Sink My Love for Battleship

There exists no convincing argument that movies should never be based on board games, because Clue exists, and therefore disproves any such argument. That said, the game of Battleship is a categorically stupid idea for a movie. Battleship is basically bingo with a bit of deductive strategy and no wacky prizes at the end. People in movies cannot sit around yelling YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP at each other, a fact which must have been clear to the people behind Battleship. Despite its dubious source material, Battleship is the one of the greatest dumb action movies of the early twenty-teens. Writers Jon and Erich Hoeber and director Peter Berg clearly took their Hasbro/Universal paychecks, gave the game a serious side-eye, and opted to keep just a few elements: big honkin’ battleships, cylindrical missile things, and goofy coordinates. Everything else is newly made-up big dumb action movie gold. It is important to ...

A Story Radiating Across the Stars: C.A. Higgins’ Lightless Series

C.A. Higgins’ Lightless begins aboard a unique spaceship, the Ananke, that has a black hole for a heart. That’s how Althea Bastet sees it, anyway. Though she’s the ship’s engineer, her practical skills are tangled up with her affection for the ship she thinks of as hers. The black hole powers the ship and its purpose, but Althea dreams that of the black hole as a heart, a bloody, embodied thing. Althea can tell when something is wrong aboard her ship, and at the opening of Higgins’ series, she knows. Lightless takes places entirely aboard the Ananke; it’s not exactly a locked-ship story, as other characters come and go, but the cat-and-mouse game that drives one of its storylines makes the ship feel claustrophobic. But Lightless is only the first in the trilogy, and while Higgins’ tale never leaves the Ananke entirely, the subsequent books—Supernova and ...

Would You Like to Smell Divine? Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s New American Gods Scents

It’s because of American Gods that I have a sprawling perfume collection. Ten years ago, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab—BPAL for short—released their first line of scents based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, and I found I could no longer resist the temptation to find out what these beloved fictional characters might smell like. If you are turning up your nose, thinking, Oh no, not perfume, I hate that stuff, wait! So was I. I loathed perfume. I held my breath walking past perfume counters, leaving a wide berth around the salespeople positioned to offer customers a spritz of something terrifying. When I saw references to BPAL online, I scrolled a little faster, certain it was not relevant to me. But there is nothing like a story to make a person change her mind about a thing. These are scents based on books—and not just any old books, but Gaiman’s evocative, atmospheric books. ...