The Riddle-Master of Hed

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The Riddle-Master of Hed
The Riddle-Master of Hed - First Edition Hardcover - Book Cover.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorPatricia A. McKillip
CountryUnited States
SeriesThe Riddle Master Trilogy
PublisherDel Rey
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages227 pp
Followed byHeir of Sea and Fire 
Map of Hed and its neighbors drawn by Kathy McKillip.

The Riddle-Master of Hed is a fantasy novel by American writer 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.[citation needed]

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.

Plot summary[edit]

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.

Critical reception[edit]

The novel was voted #13 in Locus' 1987 "All-Time Best Fantasy Novels" reader poll. It was later voted #22 in their 1998 poll.

External links[edit]