Most sequels are only pale copies of the original story. But Patricia McKillip writes a sequel like nobody else.
Returning to the dreamlike Tam Lin storyline of "Winter Rose," McKillip spins up a new story in modern times. Sure, there are laptops, cell phones and green hair. But her lush writing and glimpses of a sinister, beautiful Otherworld are still firmly in place.
Generations of Lynns have lived at Lynn Manor, going back to Lynn Corbett and Rois Melior. Now Sylvia returns to it for her grandfather's funeral, only to find that he has willed the run-down manorhouse to her. She doesn't want it, preferring her urban bookstore to the eerie beauty of her old home.
But when she encounters visions of faerie and a sewing circle/coven, Sylvia must deal with the fact that there is magic. And it has taken root in her own family: one relation is besotted with a wood nymph, while her teenage cousin has been replaced by a fay changeling. To save them, Sylvia must confront her own mysterious past... and her fay blood.
Don't expect a copy or direct follow-up to "Winter Rose." The two stories are linked here and there, but not so that "Solstice Wood" relies on the past. Instead, it's a haunting story in its own right, which can almost make you believe that a magical, terrifying Otherworld exists right next to ours, and that that knitting-obsessed old lady might be a guardian witch.
This book is also written differently: McKillip switches perspective several times, from Sylvia to her grandmother, even to the changeling that replaces Tyler. And during the more contemporary scenes, she switches to less ornate language. But her lush writing hits its stride when the supernatural slips into the story, full of cobwebs, moonlight, water and woodlands.
Sylvia is a likable heroine, with a very weird family who is tangled up in the fairy world. She starts as an aggressively normal "working girl", but gradually changes as she explores her otherworldly ancestry. The other characters -- lonely Owen and grieving grandma Iris -- are delicately drawn, and Tyler is probably the most endearing of all, since he seems the most real. Yes, even when kidnapped by fairies.
Patricia McKillip spins another magical fantasy in "Solstice Wood," where the real world and the Otherworld collide. Lyrical and captivating.