Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.
At this point in time, after reading Alphabet of Thorn, I'm in a strange place when it comes to McKillip. There's nothing faulty when it comes to this novel and in fact retains the expected techniques of the author, everything from simple language, entrancing prose, characters with personality, and a fantasy setting with its own unique laws (of magic). I guess my hesitation comes from my expectation, especially after reading The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. It all boils down to how I've simply read too much McKillip and she's failed at innovating her prose. They have, simply put, become formulaic.
Not that formulaic is necessarily a bad thing. As I said before, McKillip has nailed down her signature style. The language is easy to get into yet the dilemmas the characters face are anything but. There's richness in the characters as McKillip develops them over the span of the book and her juxtaposition of the two (or some would say three) characters are effective. Throw in some metafictional aspects and making the mundane (thorns) fantastical and you've got a terrific novel.
Except I've read this all before. After one reads the nth McKillip book, this all sounds derivative. If you haven't read her work, Alphabet of Thorn seems a good place as any to start and despite all my disparaging comments, this is really an interesting and enjoyable book. For the McKillip fan however, picking up Alphabet of Thorn is simply a question of whether you're looking forward to more of the same.