In the Forests of Serre - Review....
Stars: 4.9 out of 5
Fun: 5 of 5
So, another fantasy book - but this one is quite awesome. If you love fairytales, legends, and folklore, and also poetic prose, you will love this book. It's written by Patricia McKillip who is very talented at delivering a story with a lot of rich metaphor and gorgeous descriptions. Her books often feel like dreams and have been described aptly as "Picasso-like fairytales".
The story is fairly simple (as far as her stories go!): While riding through the forests of Serre one day, prince Rolan gallops over the favorite chicken of the Mother of all Witches. And that is a paraphrase of the book's first sentence.Rolan, having lost his wife and child, has also lost his desire to live - his father, an oppressive tyrant, and his mother, a retiring shadow of a woman, give him encouragement in the form of an arranged marriage with a neighboring country's princess.
But Rolan doesn't return home, because Brome (a witch who folklore lovers will immediately recognize as Baba Yaga, complete with house made of bones and chicken legs) is determined to make Rolan pay. Refusing to enter her house, he instead runs across the enthralling Firebird and is instantly comsumed with the desire to chase the bird until he captures it or dies.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring country, the princess, a spunky little thing, isn't exactly happy with the idea of an arranged marriage, but she goes willingly to her fate, along with a young magician who has a lot of problems of his own, mostly involving a mysterious monster and his old master.Of course, everyone eventually gets lost in the woods. Through a series of complications, the characters discover exactly what a human heart is worth (literally, Brome wants one!) and also how they can become monsters without realizing it.
There is so much amazing metaphor and sybolism in this book - I just loved it. One of my favorite things about this author is that she gives you a mystery that is also, like a good fairytale, a piece of advice - but you don't realize it while you're reading it. Also, she has a singular ability to withhold definite detail, so you are sometimes unsure if the things you're reading are actually happening or have only taken place in one of the character's imaginations. Which is what gives it the dream like quality. Besides all of this, it's just beautiful. Read it if you like this kind of thing, and read it if you don't - because you'll still enjoy it. And any of her other books, of which there are many!