Posted on January 29, 2008 by alanajoli
Written by Patricia A. McKillip
Reviewed by Alana Abbott
Secrets weave upon secrets in McKillip’s tale of weaving witches who bind their neighboring fairies, keeping the otherworld at bay. When Sylvia’s grandfather dies and she becomes the heir to Lynn Hall, one of the places where this world and the other intersect, secrets she’s been trying to hide for years start coming to the surface. She never knew the identity of her father–her mother kept it secret until her death–but she knows that he wasn’t human. And when she discovers that her grandmother, Iris, is actually a powerful spell weaver, keeping the fairies from entering the human world, her old fears that her grandmother would hate her if she found out rise to the surface. She doesn’t want to become the heir, and she doesn’t want to move back into the world that will eventually force her to reveal her identity. Unfortunately for Sylvia, she doesn’t have a choice.
Tyler, Sylvia’s cousin, has become enchanted by a girl who spends all her time in the woods, wanting to learn the secrets the wood has to share, and wanting to learn about the fairies. Calling herself Undine, she reveals to Tyler that his grandmother is a witch, and that Owen Avery, who has long taken care of the Lynn family, is a witch of sorts himself. When Owen catches them exploring on his property, Tyler dives into a pond, only to be replaced by a changeling who steals his form, sent to spy on the Lynn heir and discover just how much of the otherworld she can see. As the secrets of the world begin to spill out, the bindings between this world and the next begin to unravel, bringing the fairies closer than they ever have been, and all the dangers they represent begin to creep into the lives that have guarded against them for years. And the lives of the Lynn family hang in the balance.
Solstice Wood has a slow place, but the urgency of the plot is evident as the secrets begin to spiral out. While not a traditional tale of horror, nor particularly scary, it has an eerie feeling throughout. Each chapter is told in first person from a different voice, which allows the reader to know all of the secrets the various narrators are keeping in advance–at least, the ones they reveal. Other secrets are revealed as confrontations occur, making pieces lock into place as the narrative progresses, changing the shape of the pattern the story is weaving. The metaphor of thread runs throughout: the witches may bind the fairies behind patterns and knitting, but the fairies, too, are weaving their own stories, threading unfamiliar words into imaginary forms and building illusions of beauty where danger lurks instead. The conclusion is ultimately satisfying, and the prose is splendid: each narrator has a unique voice, but the flow and feel of the story remains constant throughout. McKillip won a World Fantasy Award previously, and it’s easy to tell why.