While browsing at my local library, I came across a small hardcover turned backward on the shelf. In my never ending curiosity, I had to turn it around and see what book was hiding: In the Forests of Serre, by Patricia McKillip. I had never heard of her before, but it sounded interesting- I’m always watching for new* fantasy authors- so I took it home. A hundred pages later, I’m completely in her world.
I’m enjoying a lot about this book, but one thing that stands out is Ms. McKillip’s skill with narrative voice. For example, there is a scribe, who works in the palace library. He really likes his job and seems generally happy with his life. In an average fantasy, he wouldn’t be given much page time- he’s much too content. In In the Forests of Serre, he is an example of why minor characters are important. There is an old wizard who has kept logs and journals that no one has ever seen, that contain a lifetime’s worth of adrenaline-filled adventures. As the scribe copies the writings and cares for the wizard, who becomes ill, the wizard becomes more clearly defined because of the wonder with which the scribe views him.
Minor characters can define the main characters by how they interact with, perceive, and are treated by the main character.
I also think Ms. McKillip is going to be invaluable in learning how to make a villain wonderfullly villainous- but I will have to post on that later. After I’ve finished the book.
*new apparently means “new to me”. Ms. McKillip has been writing since the 70s.