In the Forests of Serre – Patricia A. McKillip
Ace Books, 2004
Returning home from the war, the troubled prince Ronan runs afoul of a witch when he inadvertently rides down her little white hen. It does not take long for her vengeful predictions to come true. The king intends his only son to marry again, regardless of how the broken-hearted Ronan may still be over the loss of his first wife, and the chosen woman is already on her way from the neighbouring kingdom of Dacia. But many things may be mislaid in the strange forests of Serre. Princess Sidonie arrives to find her bridegroom gone and his father hungry for magic she cannot give, while outside the fortress gates something terrible has found a new shape…
McKillip is a writer of exceptional imagination and irresistably lyrical writing; her novels are like long tangled fairy tales, and this is no exception. There are eccentric and unpredictable wizards, reckless bargains, a house of bones and a bird of fire. It can be confusing in parts, and the many threads of the plot don’t all make sense until the very end, but it is so exquisitely written that it will lead you onward regardless.