I believe this is the most recent book by Patricia McKillip (published in late 2008) and it is my third McKillip book. While I did enjoy it for the most part, it was the least satisfying McKillip book to date for me.
The story centers around a crumbling manor house in the small town of Sealey Head, perched on the cliffs above the sea. To all outward appearances, not much happens at Aislinn House where Lady Eglantyne lies on her deathbed. The only sign that things are not as they seem is the mournful tolling of a bell as the sun goes down each day. No one knows where the bell is or what it signifies. It has been a part of the lives of the residents of Sealey Head for so many years that many don’t even notice it any more.
It soon becomes apparent that there is another side to Aislinn House which only a select few people know about. Emma, the housemaid, sometimes opens what seems to be a closet door or a door to an unused bedroom and finds instead a parallel world of princesses and knights entangled in some sort of bizarre ritualistic existence unchanged for year upon year.
The entire idea of the story is fascinating and as I said before I did enjoy the book, but the ending was a bit of a letdown with many questions left unanswered (for me at least). The mystery is wrapped up rather quickly and anticlimactically (is that a word?). Of the three McKillip books I’ve read, this one seemed to have the least of the enchanting and poetic language that initially drew me to her work when I read In the Forests of Serre.
Still, I would recommend this one to McKillip fans and those who have not discovered McKillip yet and enjoy “world within a world” fantasies. As always, the artwork on the cover by Kinuko Y. Craft is extraordinary as well.