From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip

Review by Cynthia Ward

The sound of a bell rings out at sunset in Sealey Head, but there is no bell; no one knows the source of the sound. No one in the little seaside town has ever seen the bell, unless perhaps the ancient Lady Eglantine, who lies dying in Aislinn House, has. If so, she does not speak of it.

Gwyneth Blair, the merchant’s daughter, writes stories seeking to explicate the secret of the bell. Judd Cauley, the innkeeper’s son, marvels at her stories and studies old books, attempting to discover a more factual answer to the mystery. He loves Gwyneth, but assumes he has no chance to win her, as she is being courted by Raven Sproule, son of the richest man in town. And perhaps Ridley Dow, the moneyed newcomer who seems to know more than he admits about the enigmatic bell, is another potential suitor. Meanwhile, in Aislinn House, the servant girl Emma has found a princess, and an entire world of knights and ladies and sinister crows, behind a closet door. All are linked to the uncanny bell, in ways none can guess.

The Bell at Sealey Head is prime Patricia A. McKillip: a lyrical, unpredictable fantasy novel of quiet elegance and complex characterization, every bit as marvelous and evocative as its lovely Kinuko Y. Craft cover. As you might expect from a World Fantasy Award and Mythopoeic Award-winning author who is one of America’s finest, The Bell at Sealey Head is one of the best books published last year. And, if you’re a true bibliophile, it’s unlikely you’ll find another novel that better demonstrates how and why you love books.

The Bell at Sealey Head
Patricia A. McKillip
ISBN: 978-0-441-01756-0
Ace Books | Trade Paperback | $14
September 2009

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