They arrive in Lungold where Morgon discovers the wizards in the ancient school and helps prepare the city for the coming attack. That attack is not long in coming. Ghisteslwchlom and Morgon duel, with Morgon searching the wizard’s mind to learn that he built Lungold to find out about the Star-Bearer and that he destroyed it to hide that memory. That he went to ask the High One a question but found no one, so he took up residence there. The shape-changers attack and Ghisteslwchlom discovers that they are far more powerful than he imagined. His mind is captured and Morgon flees.
Morgon is driven through many shapes by the shape-changers, until he is imprisoned once again within Erlenstar Mountain. Here he realizes that both Ghisteslwchlom and the shape-changers had been using him as bait to draw the High One to his destruction so that they could take his power. Eventually Morgon takes the shape of wind and with help from Raederle he escapes, forgetting himself, fleeing into the wilderness, where he harps to the sound of the wind. Raederle finds him there and tells him of the wizard Yrth’s harping, harping that is oddly reminiscent of Deth’s harping. Morgon returns to Isig to discover the riddle of Deth—who is this man who can prevent Morgon from killing him with a mere riddle, who can draw him with broken harping?
Yrth urges him to strengthen his power, to learn the land-law of Isig. Successful, he determines to fight the shape-changers in Wind-Plain in Ymris (where the battle has been going rather badly), but not until he has learned the land-law of Oesterland, Herun, and Ymris. While in Herun, he tells the Morgol, who had gone to Lungold to seek Deth, as they had loved each other, that Deth had given up his life to keep Ghisteslwchlom to keep him from using the Morgol as bait for Morgon. Impulsively Yrth, who by his own admission plays the harp badly these days, plays the beautiful harping that the High One’s harpist enchanted kings with. Then he plays a song that Deth made only for the Morgol, vanishing into the fire as he finishes. Morgon discovers the answer to his riddle—Deth and Yrth are the High One, hidden in the tower of the endless stair on Wind Plain.
Morgon climbs the tower, dispells the illusion to find himself standing in front of the High One. Deth explains that the Earth-Masters grew into their power, but that their power had no limits. He realized that there must be limits and began to create the land-law, to prevent the other Earth-Masters from abusing their power. War ensued and while the Earth-Master-shape-changers were bound by the High One, he did not have the strength to withstand them. So he hid, became Yrth the wizard and Deth the harper to await the Star-Bearer, his land-heir. When the Star-Bearer arrived, a Prince of Hed who know nothing of his power, Deth led him in the path to ensure that he would be capable of receiving the transfer of land-rule when the High One died. He let Ghisteslwchlom teach Morgon the path unfettered power takes. And he gave Morgon a choice—a choice to follow Ghisteslwchlom who took his land-law, or follow Deth, who stole his love and trust by betraying him to Ghisteslwchlom. Morgon chose the latter and eventually ends up in the tower on Wind Plain.
The foreseen battle comes about swiftly; the High One lets Ghisteslwchlom kills him with Morgon’s star-sword and the land-rule of the realm passes to Morgon. The shape-changers take from him much of his inherited knowledge, but Morgon can control the winds, which was the power that the High One tamed and used to keep the shape-changers at bay. Morgon drives them into Erlenstar Mountain, imprisoning them there (they are kept alive because he sees their beauty in Raederle), and turns to the task of consolidating his land-rule. Finally, after having searched a long time, he finds Raederle, who has found a love of the sea. But through it all, they both have found a love for each other.
Harpist in the Wind is a satisfying conclusion to the questions raised in the previous two books. The telling of the answers to these questions reveals a thoughtful consideration of them by McKillip and this book, more so than the others, bears the marks of a deep questioning of life. Here, too comes a rather Christian theme of a god dying for the realm, of a god who for two thousand years hid his power to find and protect his heir from the powers of evil that would destroy everything. It is a book of haunting dialogue and a story of compelling thoughtfulness.
Well-written and a pleasure to read. The dialogue portrays a wonder, a fear, and a confusion that causes the readers to identify with the characters. For a Christian reader, at least, the series’ questions are answered in a fashion reminiscent of the Christian experience—although God is seeming absent for long periods, especially so during our trials, He does in fact have a purpose for it. Unlike so many books, the answers, while satisfying, hint at a history that events do not permit to be told. Much like real life, where there is so much that can be known, but there is not time to discover it all. The only thing lacking is that, being a young adult series, not much in the way of side plots are developed. Still, many of the characters grow in a fashion not seen in adult fiction and the series ranks as a superbly crafted work.
||Land-heir to the High One, who
is relentlessly pursued by the shape-changers for his connection to the
High One, and by Ghisteslwchlom for the power that he thinks Morgon’s
connection could bring. Becomes the High One.
||Half shape-changer Earth
Master. Is mostly defined by her love for Mogon.
||The harpist who Morgon
unknowingly loves, who dies at the hands of Ghistelswchlom after
serving as his harper for six centuries. As Morgon observes, he
is the master riddler, who somehow can draw Morgon to whatever he
wishes without ever really seeming to do so. Is really the High
One. Loves Morgon (and is somewhat surprised that he does); regrets the pain that he needed to cause him.
||One of the most powerful wizards
of Lungold. Created Morgon’s harp and the starred sword that
eventually kills the High One. Persuades Morgon to learn the
land-law. Is really the High One.
||Earth Master who realized the
implications of power and created the land-law to limit it. The
fight left him old and without enough power to win the battle, so he
hid as Yrth and the High One’s harper for centuries to find the
Star-bearer, his land-heir and prepare him to finish the battle. Had apparently abandoned the realm except for the land-rule while all
the time walking a perilous path the protect the realm from its enemies.
||Land-ruler of Osterland. Teaches Morgon the land-rule of Osterland.
||Land-ruler of Herun. Seems
to hold a surprisingly deep experience. Permits Morgon to learn
the land-rule of Herun. Loves and is loved by Deth, who in his
last harping, reveals himself in the only foolish thing he ever did.
||Land-ruler of An and Raederle’s
father. Left An so that the wraiths would stir up and force the
people to arm themselves against the coming war. Permitted Morgon
to use the wraiths to protect Hel.
Magic seems to be the ability to mentally connect with other things—animals, people, etc.
||Achieved by searching for other
minds and then casting your mind there.
||Accomplished by becoming the
thoughts of that animal.
||Mental bindings over something
else, usually people. Land-rule is the collection of these
bindings to the plants and animals of a particular area. Only
someone with more powerful mental abilities can break bindings.
||Apparently the Earth Masters
could make the stones speak.
||Prevents another from perceiving
who you are or where you are. Used by the wizards of Lungold to
protect their burial ground from robbers seeking power. Used by
Morgon to conceal himself from Ghisteslwchlom in order to escape. Used by the High One to create a tower of endless stairs that lead only
to greater heights and stronger winds. Like bindings, only a more
powerful mind can see through the illusion directly.
||The ultimate irresistable power
and the only thing that allowed the High One to survive the initial
- Power must be controlled; power without limits leads to chaos
- Hiding one’s power, authority, and honor to accomplish the salvation of the realm
- Seeking the truth (i.e. answering riddles) is of paramount importance. The unanswered riddle can destroy you.
- Epic struggle of good vs. evil. (Evil is not entirely vanquished, either, merely imprisoned)
- Love, trust, betrayal
- The pain of abandonment, the pain of duty (in the case of Deth/High One, who sees Morgon suffer and who appears to suffer under Ghisteslwchlom).
- Why? Why is this happening to me? Why does the ruler