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The Sorceress and the Cygnet Hardcover – May 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Hardcover; 1st edition (May 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441775640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441775644
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,507,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this fantasy, the banished Gold King tries to fight a ruling family. "With strong, archetypal characters and a powerful command of symbolism, McKillip depicts the human conflict between the desire for power and the need for love," said PW. (Jan.) 3
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Corleu was different from the typical dark-haired Wayfolk. His blond hair and his fascination with the legends and children's rhymes about the Cygnets, Gold King, Blind Lady, Dancer, and Warlock set him apart. When Corleu and a band of Wayfolk become trapped in an endless swamp, he crosses a threshold (an unthinkable act for Wayfolk) seeking a means of escape. This impetuous act puts him on a collision course with the legends of his childhood. This is not a simple novel. The intricately woven plot laced with surrealist qualities will appeal to mature fantasy lovers. --Grace Baun, Robert E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By EAWK on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
McKillip weaves a complex web of magic and desire in this book. What a shame it's out of print! I rate McKillip right up there with my all-time favorite authors, right up there with Tolkien and Le Guin. The stars come down to manipulate the future of humanity, stories take on reality, and love and desire meet. Places shift: houses fly, rooms move from place to place as they explore their own memories, and a maze at the root of a castle hold slips through time. Delightful! I liked the Riddle-Master trilogy, but this was even richer, more literary. I want to read everything by this author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lori on December 29, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I just finished rereading this book. This is probably the hardest Mckillip book to read, because you really are left wondering what just happened after reading a dense, colorful passage. However, I find that the author's style is refreshing and makes this book unique. No other author fires my imagination like she does.

The Sorceress and the Cygnet is told from two perspectives: Corleu, a light-haired Wayfolk man, and Meguet Vervaine, the guardian of Ro Holding. Corleu is coerced by legends come to life (the Gold King, the Blind Lady, etc.) to find the heart of the Cygnet, which rules over Ro Holding. Corleu finds help from a bog-witch who happens to be the third daughter of the Holder of Ro Holding. Meguet Vervaine, on the other hand, must protect the Cygnet and Ro Holding at all cost.

I'm pretty sure the Sorceress and the Cygnet is out of print. I had to pay $20 for a paperback at an obscure bookstore way back when I was in high school or middle school (I was that desperate). Luckily, Sorceress and the Cygnet is being rereleased, combined with the Cygnet and the Firebird as one book. I hope Mckillip writes a third Cygnet book. Mckillip is my favorite author, and I must say that the Cygnet books contain her most memorable characters ever.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By themindzi on October 18, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is an absolutely wonderful book, the one that got me hooked on Patricia McKillip in the first place. A young man finds himself trapped in a story of magic and gods, used as a pawn to find the heart of the Cygnet. Wading through myths come to life, he finds himself drawn to his bloodkin and trapped in a story that began with them long ago.
It remains to this day one of my all-time favorite novels and I recommend it to anyone.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Allison J Walworth on December 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Other people have written som e wonderful reviews, and I agree that it's a shame that it's out of print--I had to pay an atrocious price for my copy. I think that another Cygnet book would be great, for there are a lot of loose ends in The Cygnet and the Firebird that need to be tied up, and I've noticed that McKillip only seems to be doing stand-alones now, good as they are. I, too, buy everything she writes, not for the plot, necessarily, but for the beauty of the images she evokes. Try Winter Rose, that is just as bitter and strange and lovely. I agree that the ending of the Sorceress and the Cygnet was very hard to understand, and I've read it a million times, seeking to understand. Does anyone know what happened?
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Format: Hardcover
Patricia A. McKillip's novel, The Sorceress and the Cygnet, may begin with the boy Corleu, but the women of Ro Holding on whom the book ends are what made me love it. Corleu, a boy of questionable heritage, is caught up in stories of the gods -- the Gold King, the Blind Lady, and others -- and literally steps inside their stories, freeing them to renew old battles with one another. He ends up in a many-roomed house in the swamp of the Blood Fox, which is home to the sorceress Nyx, and eventually clashes with Nyx's cousin, Meguet, guardian of the Cygnet as he seeks the Cygnet's heart in exchange for saving the love of his life from the Gold King.

Without giving away the ending, what I like about this book is the richness of the descriptions. You know it's going to be good from the first couple sentences:

"He was a child of the horned moon. That much Corleu's great-gran told him after, pipe between her last few teeth, she washed the mud out of his old man's hair and stood him between her knees to dry it" (1).

This level of specificity & detail is present throughout this brief novel. McKillip offers proof that a novel doesn't have to be long to have substance. She invents myths, rhymes, and family histories that are believably complex and richer than your average monster of a fantasy novel. The narrative works because we discover reality alongside Corleu. While the movement from Corleu's point of view (POV) to Meguet's POV feels abrupt and leaves the book feeling slightly disjointed, I understand why she structured the book this way: without Corleu, readers would have been completely lost.
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