The Tower at Stony Wood
This book, like all McKillip’s later work, is gorgeous. The prose flows like finely crafted poetry, and the metaphoric imagery is sometimes odd and jarring, sometimes smoothly fitting, but always striking. McKillip’s style can best be described as impressionistic and sensual — appealing to the senses, that is, rather than to the mind. Often confusing, with no real line between dream, vision, and reality, each section still fits in a sub-conscious way. This book tells the story of a young knight on a quest to free a woman captive in a tower (faintly reminiscent of the Lady of Shallot), but the book’s point is not the story, but the beauty of the imagery and descriptions.
All this may sound rather odd, but poetry speaks to the soul, and McKillip’s gorgeous writing does as well. The view presented by her style is not Christian, but it is not specifically non-Christian. McKillip does not seem to be denying absolute reality in our world, but rather depicting a dream world in which reality is fluid. This world is obviously not real, but contained in McKillip’s own imagination. Unfortunately, this particular book contains additional problems. Toward the end, the relationship between good and evil, previously drawn (as far as it was drawn) in fairly defined terms, is turned upside-down when the supposed antagonist turns out to be good — or at least neutral, rather like a force-goddess — and reveals that the knight’s quest has been all for nothing. This sudden turning of the tables — and denial of any real difference between good and evil — upset me. I was not pleased with the book compared to McKillip’s other works, which, while still at times odd, maintained a sense of good and evil much better.