The small seaside town of Sealey Head is home to a few families, an inn, and Aislinn House, an old mansion with a special power—its doors sometimes open onto the world of faerie, where princesses like young Ysabo occupy their time with a complex ritual and knights exist to marry the princesses. Each day at sunset, a bell sounds, heard by everyone, yet its whereabouts and the identity of its ringer remain unknown—until a few strangers arrive to unlock an ancient past. McKillip (Alphabet of Thorn; The Forgotten Beasts of Eld) weaves elegant modern fairy tales from simple themes, drawing the mythical and everyday worlds into an enchanted union. Elegant, deceptively spare prose and well-developed characters make this a good choice for adult and YA fantasy collections. – School Library Journal
I anticipated the arrival of The Bell at Sealey Head for months last year. It didn’t disappoint. McKillip always delivers truly lyrical prose. When I say that, I don’t mean romantic and flowery, and I don’t simply mean ‘well-written.’ I mean paragraphs like this:
“The princess stood on top of the highest tower in Aislinn House. Trees, sea, sky sloped dizzyingly around her. Emma could feel the wind blowing the morning scents of salt and earth, wrasse and wrack, newly opened flowers. Ysabo was surrounded by crows, a gathering so thick they covered the tower floor, a living, rustling, muttering pool of dark, consuming what looked like last night’s leftovers, the remains of a great feast, crusts and bloody bones, withering greens, the drying seeds and bright torn peels of exotic fruits.” p. 34
And that’s just a disconnected example, pulled out of a beautiful story that needs the whole, needs the context, to be fully felt and appreciated. Can you tell that I’m enchanted? McKillip’s work isn’t easily classified, either. It’s high fantasy certainly, and her worlds seem to emerge completely out of the ether, strikingly different, and made of another, magical time. Her characters live, laugh and learn to love in the midst of mystical and mysterious activities that only come out clear at the end. Or don’t make themselves clear at all. It’s uncertain, it’s wonderful, and it’s worth reading to the very last. But as to whether it’s YA or adult literature? You must make that discovery for yourself. Enjoy!
If you’d like to win your own copy of The Bell at Sealey Head, I’m holding a giveaway for one (1) copy.
Leave a comment on this post answering the question, “What is the most unusual ‘faerie’ creature you have heard of?”
Please include your email address. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on August 9 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winner via email.