It's hard for me to sit down and get started on a McKillip; her books are so dense and difficult to follow. (And it didn't help that with this one I misread the cover blurb and was confused for the first few chapters.) But as soon as I get into her books, I remember why McKillip is my all-time favorite author. IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE is a typically rich and beautiful example of her work.
There are a wide variety and a large number of characters that are skillfully woven together. The scribe was one unusual viewpoint character, but very effective and important to tell what was happening with the wizard Unciel. I think that I figured out what happened in the book ... ;) And McKillip sure likes firebirds!
There is one main romance in the story, between Prince Ronan and his bride-to-be, Princess Sidonie. Ronan is still in grave mourning for his first wife and child (she died in childbirth) but his horrible greedy father, the King of Serre, decides it's past time for the prince to marry again. Without Ronan's input, he is promised to a daughter of a nearby kingdom, Dacia, that the king desires. The bride isn't too thrilled about it either, but she agrees because she knows it's the only way to stop the King from swallowing up Dacia like he did all her neighbors. He has only hesitated because of the reputation that Dacia has for sorcery. So Sidonie starts travelling toward Serre and Ronan is called back from war. Before they meet though, Ronan has an unfortunate encounter with the witch Brum which sets in motion a series of magical and dramatic events.
I liked not knowing from the beginning how the relationships would turn out. There are a lot of possibilities since several men fall in love with Sidonie (or at least her throne). McKillip does her usual excellent job in making every side character unique and skillfully drawn and giving magic a visceral, organic feel.--Rebekah (7 Jan 04)