The Riddle-Master of Hed
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First edition cover
|Author||Patricia A. McKillip|
|Series||The Riddle Master Trilogy|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||Heir of Sea and Fire|
The Riddle-Master of Hed is a fantasy novel by Patricia A. McKillip. It is the first book of the Riddle Master Trilogy, the following two books being Heir of Sea and Fire and Harpist in the Wind. It was published in 1976.
The trilogy makes use of a number of themes from Celtic mythology.
It takes place in a fantasy world divided into a number of countries. Each ruler has a mystical awareness of his or her land: the land-rule. The seldom-seen High One presides over all. Riddles, typically questions about obscure pieces of lore, feature significantly, as does shapeshifting magic.
The Riddle-Master of the title is Morgon, the Prince of Hed, a small, simple island populated by farmers and swineherds. He has three stars on his forehead, which no one has been able to explain. As the book opens, his sister, Tristan, discovers that he is keeping a crown hidden under his bed, and he must explain that he won it in a riddle-game with a ghost, the cursed king Peven of Aum.
When Deth, the High One's harpist, finds out, he explains that another king, Mathom of An, has pledged to marry his daughter Raederle to the man who wins that crown from the ghost.
Morgon sets forth to claim his bride accompanied by Deth, but while at sea, his ship is sunk by mysterious shapechangers. Shipwrecked, Morgon loses his memory and the power of speech. When Deth finally finds him again, and he recovers his memory and speaking ability, he resolves to travel to ask the High One about the shapechangers. The High One's home, located in the far north on Erlenstar Mountain, is seldom visited. As Morgon and Deth travel the length of the realm, they are repeatedly attacked by the shapechangers, and Morgon learns more and more dangerous knowledge about his three stars and the great powers that come with them.
He also comes to know personally the land rulers of Ymris, Herun, Osterland, and Isig.
The book ends as a cliffhanger, with Morgon discovering who is posing as the High One.
All three books were collected into the volume Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy in 1999.
Awards and nominations
The novel was voted #13 in Locus' 1987 "All-Time Best Fantasy Novels" reader poll. It was later voted #22 in their 1998 poll.
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