I obviously love good food*, but I also love good books. Yesterday, I found myself enthralled with Robin McKinley's newest, Chalice. So much, in fact, that I neglected to even look at my paper**.
I was sad when I closed the cover of Chalice last night: not because the book ended sadly but because I was finished. I did not want to finish. I wanted the story to go on forever and ever because I liked the world McKinley created, and I liked the characters, and I liked the story. She's good. She's really good--and she doesn't really write sequels, so you're left with the feeling of having finished a good story but also knowing that all the bits of story that are left unresolved will never come to anything.
McKinley's books are good because she sticks with Tolkien's style of storytelling. Tolkien knew that there's always more story to tell, and to create a rich story, full of depth and meaning, you (as the storyteller) had to hint that there are more stories to tell. You create the craving in the reader, but never fulfill it. It's like Scheherezade in The Arabian Nights' Entertainments: both delight and surprise, but stir up a desire that can never be satisfied. "More!" you want to shout, but more you'll never get. In the meantime, you are left with this splendid book, Chalice, and the hope that maybe McKinley will do what she did for Damar and make another story***.
I'm being purposely vague about the book because I think it best if the reader simply immerses herself into McKinley's beautiful world without knowing what's going on. McKinley reveals it slowly, throwing the reader into the narrative stream partway through and then reveals pieces of the tale (not the whole story, mind you) that pertain to the overall plot. There's this niggling sense all along that McKinley has several narrative threads in her hands, but merely shows you a flash of their color instead of spinning it out fully. It adds a three-dimensionality to her world without bogging it down with unnecessary explication. Like Tolkien, she assumes the reader is smart enough to get it, and the story is all the richer for it.
It's a delicate balance that many authors fail at (cough, Twilight, cough). McKinley succeeds, and I now have a new favorite book, at least until the next one comes along...
*I made the most delicious dinner last night: couscous with roasted vegetables^, seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil with a crumbling of the soft goat cheese. Oh. My. God. That (and a glass of wine) and Chalice, and I forgot about my paper entirely. I also sort of refused to share with my neighbor because I wanted it all for myself.
^Beets, turnips, butternut squash, apple, onion, garlic, cranberries, red bell pepper, and almonds. Toss lightly in olive oil and roast in a pan for a while (until vegetables are all tender). Sprinkle the almonds on toward the end or else they might burn before the veggies are cooked.
**And so much for that goal of 5 pages typed. Okay, so now the goal is to get to page 5 tonight, and finish it up tomorrow. Buckle down and work, do it now!
***The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are longtime favorites. I read them in high school and have reread them over and over again. (Beauty is also really delightful.)