The Bards of Bone Plain

I do think this is an awfully good title.  It just begs to be picked up and read!  This is only the second Patricia McKillip book I've read in my life (the other one was The Bell at Sealey Head), and I've liked both pretty well.  I do find the cover a bit amusing; a lot of McKillip books have this kind of cover and it's very pretty.  It's also a little much, though, and a bit ironic for this book given that the heroine spends all her time in working clothes.  It's sure pretty though!

Belden is a modernizing kingdom -- I imagine it rather Edwardian -- and the capital contains the ancient and prestigious bardic college.  It's also got an active archaeology program!  Phelan, a talented but unenthusiastic student, is about to graduate, but he has to write a final paper.  Beatrice, the youngest daughter of the king, is a very enthusiastic archaeology student under Phelan's talented but very eccentric father, Jonah.  A suspiciously charismatic bard shows up, and triggers a contest for the next royal bard...

Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we go back in time to the earliest days of the bardic college and even earlier, to the runaway pig-keeper Nairn, who wants to learn all the music in the world -- but gets drafted into a war instead.  After the war, he tries to avoid the new college, but eventually ends up there, and a mysterious bard shows up and triggers a contest for the next royal bard...

The stories intertwine, and eventually Phelan and Beatrice, along with some friends, solve the mystery.  I was expecting something different, so that was fun.  I really enjoyed this one, and will be reading more McKillip.


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