Author: Patricia McKillip.
Brenden Vetch has a gift. With an innate sense he cannot explain to himself or describe to others, he is able to connect to the agricultural world, nurturing gardens to flourish and instinctively knowing the healing properties each plant and herb has to offer. But Brenden’s gift isolates him from people – and from becoming part of a community.
Until the day he receives a personal invitation from the wizard Od. She needs a gardener for her school in the great city of Kelior, where every potential wizard must be trained to serve the Kingdom of Numis. For decades the rulers of Numis have controlled the school, believing they can contain the power within it -and punish any wizard who dares defy the law.
But unknown to the reigning monarchy is the power possessed by the school’s new gardener – a power that even Brenden isn’t fully aware of – and which is the true reason Od recruited him…
I just finished reading(and raving over) The Changeling Sea , also by Patricia McKillip, and while this story has the same whimsical touch to its description and magic, it’s rather lighter on the awe-inspiring description and metaphor, and perhaps stronger on the plot – or, at least, it was a more complex plot, with a few more characters and subplots woven in. We’ve got multiple viewpoints, each distinctly different but all getting tangled up in the same events.
My only criticism would be the everything-worked-out-everyone’s-happy ending. It’s pretty, of course, but just didn’t feel quite believable. After being so intensely suspicious of magic/magicians/the unknown, it doesn’t seem natural for the king to acquiesce so quickly. (And what’s going to happen with the princess’s marriage?)
But overall, another fun fantasy read.
Sexual Content: “Some nights he spent in the bracken; some nights in bed with her.” This is a short, telling-not-showing section about MC’s backstory, and his relationship with this girl is unclear. They don’t seem to be married, and she leaves him soon after. / Brief kiss.
Violence: Teacher recounting past events tells students about a dragon/beast attacking the city, dropping ships on the palace, and crushing several buildings in the residential section too. A torch thrown too high sets a building on fire, briefly trapping a woman, but a magician rescues her and puts it out. Soldiers try to arrest a magician, block off part of the city (but ultimately fail). One magician chases another across the country.