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Stepping From Shadows Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1984
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This is not the typical "sword and sorcery" fantasy, full of blue levin-bolts and robed wizards. Instead, McKillip has crafted an enchanted landscape within the fractured persona of Frances, a girl who has created a horned creature called the Stagmen who embodies all that she fears and desires.
From the beginning of the novel, McKillip weaves (and ensnares) Frances in religious imagery. There are all the teachings and trappings of Roman Catholicism in which Frances is raised and educated, as well as the rich pagan themes in whatever natural environment she happens to be living in (i.e. the sonoran desert, the mountains of Germany, the English countryside, even the shores of Northern Washington State). Frances splits herself into a sort of insane Trinity: the Frances who writes tales about the Stagman, giving him life; the Frances who is so afraid of everything vital that she tries to disappear, so the Stagman can't touch her; and then there's the bold Frances, desparately wanting to free herself from the soul-killing fear so she can either join with the Stagman or (maybe) become him.
A very touching and mature story fit for anyone who hurts, or for those who are trying to understand how and why some people just don't seem to be "normal".
Tame Frances and Wild Frances grow to adulthood through the fifties and sixties. She (they) endure a very dislocated existence as the Army posts her(their)father to Arizona, Germany, England, and finally California. Tame Frances fears and is drawn to horned, pronged, pointed objects -- cactii are an underground Hellgiant's fingers; tusked boars haunt the German forest -- and finally her more creative self invents The Stagman, after a close encounter with a Guy Fawkes effigy. The Stagman haunts the rest of the book. He is the culmination of everything Tame Frances fears and desires. This is very much an internal rather than an external fantasy, so there are no magic spells or incantations to make the Stagman go away. Frances slowly grows together, stops disliking herself, loses a bit of her shyness, stops running away from her creative self, and comes to terms with the Stagman and (maybe) the Buttercup God.
This is how a very creative writer grows up, beautifully told.