“She is like the wood. Like golden light falling through the golden branches of the oak. The fierce, hot green stillness of midsummer, or the colors blowing everywhere in autumn when the winds are clear and wild as water…”
The Book of Atrix Wolfe is my second book by McKillip that I have read. She has a very dreamy way of writing her stories that just suck me in and refuse to let go. While I have only read two so far I noticed a recurring theme between the two, both have a melancholy feel to them. On one hand The Book of Atrix Wolfe was beautiful and dreamy and on the other it was melancholy and heartbreaking. Now I will say McKillip isn’t for everyone, she has a very flowelry over descriptive way of telling her stories, that they move very slowly. If you don’t like that then you honestly probably wouldn’t enjoy her work, unless you really pushed yourself through it, and while I struggled with this at times, I knew she was going to deliver in the heartache which is what pushed me to keep going, (I like having my heart broken when I read leave me alone haha).
The Book of Atrix Wolfe follows the events that happen after the prologue. Yes there is a prologue but it truly sets up the entire story and what is to come. The story follows the consequences of the actions that happened in the prologue by Atrix Wolfe. I loved this approach to the story, while it is normal to see the aftermath of certain events that happen in prologues, it’s usually 100+ years later, this was only a 20 year difference, so the events are still very fresh in many of the characters minds. The story constantly mentions veterans who were there and witnessed the great massacre of Pelucir, the King is fraught with memories fresh in his mind. It’s still very real and very fresh to so many even though it’s been 20 years. And then there are those who hadn’t witnessed it or were not even born, yet they live to hear the stories constantly. So to have the consequences pop up so soon after the initial event was a nice change of pace.
The story follows 3 characters the Mage Atrix Wolfe, Prince Talis of Pelucir and Saro a young kitchen girl who can not speak. I loved Saro’s chapters, she is completely mute through the book and no one knows if it’s by choice or if she was born that way but what really made her chapters interesting was how they provided information for the greater story. Saro worked in the kitchens as a pot cleaner and so all of the necessary information that, I the reader needed, was told through the gossip of the kitchen servants as well as the musicians and hall servants of the castle. This was such a unique way of providing context for other portions of the story, like what was going on with the king and how he was reacting to certain events surrounding his brother Prince Talis. This also provided a lot of side commentary about what foods were being made so I found myself getting hungry a lot haha.
Talis was a sweet character, first of all he is a prince with glasses, it’s not often I read about a prince having glasses so I loved this little bit about him. He gets tangled up in the aftermath of Atrix’s actions and is used by those around him so they can get what they want. He is literally an innocent bystander pulled into these events by the Queen of the Wood, who wants both revenge for what she lost and the possibility and hope of finding what was taken.
“If I could stay-if somehow I could unweave myself from this spell and stay-I would burn these woods again with my memory. I was born that night. These Hunter’s hands are my hands, these hounds and burning horns are mine. I died that night. There is nothing left of Ilyos but memory.”
All the heartache I experienced revolved around the Queen. If there is one thing I have learned McKillip is amazing at, it is creating tragedy but delivered in the most beautiful way possible. She writes about loss in this tale and it features both permanent loss and temporary loss but both are shared in equal light and both are tragic in their own right. She shows how innocent bystanders lost just as much as those who where taking part in the war 20 years prior. But she also shows how one never gives up, never stops looking, never forgets. The last 66 pages of the book are absolutely heart wrenching and broke me in so many ways. Also I really loved how we got to see Atrix learn and react to how horrible is actions affected others who he didn’t even know where involved. It isn’t glossed over and his reaction come across as genuinely confused and shocked with himself.
This has everything from magic, to fairy queens, to shapeshifting mages and so much more. It’s a story steeped in learning how to own up to one’s mistakes and not run and lie from them because eventually they will come back.