She first goes to Caithnard the tell her brother, Rood, who had been friends with Morgon. She finds him and his University in a crisis, wondering if the tenets of riddle-mastery are still relevant, now that the High One seems disinterested in one of his land-rulers fate. She also discovers that the wizards, who everyone thought were dead, had been freed of Ghisteslwchlom’s control. Here she tells the others of the message from Isig that Morgon had found a starred sword in the heart of Isig Mountain and had awakaned the dead Earth Masters’ children. Raederle and a small contingent of the Morgol of Herun’s guards force her father’s ship captain to sail north to take them closer to Erlenstar Mountain. The captain is, in fact, willing to go, until they discover that that the land-heir of Hed, Morgon’s sister Tristan, is a stowaway, also enroute to Erlenstar Mountain. Kidnapping a land-ruler is too much for Bri, the captain and he turns back.
However, he was sighted by Ymris war ships, who think he is running from them, and they escort him to Ymris. Ymris is fighting a war against rebels, and not overly successfully. Here Raederle and Lyra (the captain of the Morgol’s guards, and the land-heir to Herun) discover that Astrin (land-heir to Ymris) does not believe that Morgon is dead—he went to Erlenstar Mountain to find answers and death was not one of the answers he was looking for. But that would mean that the High One—who appears to be Ghisteslwchlom—intentionally took the land-rule from Morgon, for only the High One can do that.
Raerderle and Lyra are determined to continue their quest, so Raederle convinces the King of Ymris to send Tristan back to Hed (thus placating Bri). The King expects Bri to return Raederle and Lyra to their homes, but in walking with Astrin in the Earth-Masters’ ruined city on Wind Plain, Raederle found a bright, dodecahedral stone, which she uses to create an illusion of a bright star in the ocean, so that the Ymris ships do not follow her and Bri can sail north without any difficulties. In making her illusion, she discovers a powerful mind interested in the stone but is pulled back to the world safely. (Raederle is becoming something of an illusionist, thanks to teachings from a pig-woman, a formerly bound wizard, from whom she also learns that she is descended from a shape shifter.)
They arrive in Isig where they are told that Morgon was seen several days prior. He had been in Erlenstar Mountain a year with Ghisteslwchlom probing his mind for an image. During Ghisteslwchlom’s probing, Morgon saw into his mind and learned his secrets, which he used to defeat Ghisteslwchlowm. It was during this fight that Ghisteslwchlowm took his land-rule. Deth spent the year harping, reminding Morgon of the ultimate betrayer that Deth was. Morgon was so incensed that he vowed to kill Deth for that betrayal and is travelling to all the land-rulers requesting that they bar Deth from their land. This news disturbs the three women, who find Morgon’s anger and Deth’s betrayal inconsistent with their characters.
That night a shape-changer comes to Raederle, causing her to hunger after the shape-changer’s power. Through her journey, as she realized her ancestors are the ones who are hunting Morgon, she refuses to take the power she knows she has. Like Morgon before her, who long refused to abandon his name as Morgon of Hed to take up the name Starbearer, she refuses to leave Raederle of An to take up a name related to the enemies of the man she loves. But the shape-changer causes her to hunger for the power, and torn, she flees from Isig.
She blunders into the camp of Deth, who regrets that his actions have doomed him (either from Morgon or from the High One whom he claimed to harp for). While talking with him, Raederle shapes the fire the way the shape-changer demonstrated for the first time. She falls asleep, Deth covers her with his cloak, and leaves unseen. Lyra finds her the next morning, having wasted time following Raederle’s wandering threads and skirting her illusionary lake. They decide to abandon their quest to Erlenstar Mountain, knowing that it is only Ghisteslwchlom who lived there, and return with Bri to Herun, where Morgon was last heard to be going.
When they arrive at Herun, they find that Morgon has come and gone, as well as the Morgol, so they continue to Caithnard. Here an emissary from Hed passionately persuades Tristan to come home, Raederle discusses he heritage with the Masters, and unexpected finds Morgon. Although first angered at learning of her heritage, he chooses to continue to love her and takes leave of her, although not before she pleads with him not to kill Deth but to follow riddle-mastery and find out who he is.
Raederle continues through An towards its captial (and her home) Anuin. She discovers that in her father Mathom’s absence, the wraiths of Hel, with their old enmity to each other and the living rulers of An are beginning to tear apart the country. Realizing that Morgon would be travelling through this, she makes a bargain with Farr, an wraith whose skull she acquired, to protect Morgon as he travels to An. In order to survive Farr, she is forced to encircle herself with an illusion of fire, becoming quite skillful through the process. When the wraiths reach Anuin, she discovers that they have protected Deth instead of Morgon and furthermore, brought their quarrels into the heart of An.
Morgon, who, unbeknownst to Raederle, had been protecting her from any attempt the wraiths might make on her, arrives in Anuin and makes the explosive situation even more so by his confrontation of Deth. Deth has little to say in his defense except that the Earth-Master’s children, who had given Morgon the sword, were promised a man of peace. Morgon, who had previously killed only reluctantly, realizes that he does not wish to become a killer and refrains from killing Deth, who quickly flees. Morgon, who has somehow acquired some power over the land-law of An, promises to defuse the wrath of the wraiths. This time, however, Raederle refuses to be left behind.
Heir of Sea and Fire ends the way The Riddle-Master of Hed ends: abruptly and raising more questions than it answered. It parallels its predecessor by chronicling Raederle’s refusal and ultimate acceptance that her real place in the world is not what she originally though. Through the journey more details of the realm, its inhabitants, and the questions confronting them are disclosed, still leaving the reader, like the land-rulers, hungering for answers.
McKillip explores several themes confronting us as readers. She continues to pose the question “why does God seem so unconcerned about us” (although the High One only has some of the Christian God’s characteristics). The question, first raised by Morgon in the previous volume, become ever more poignant as Morgon, one of the High One’s land-rules endures severe hardships without the High One appearing to notice. The second theme is the process of self-discovery so often found in young adult literature. The third major theme is that of love and acceptance—Raederle’s love for Morgon is stressed by his absence and her nature: can he love someone who is the nature of his enemies?
Written much like the first volume, Heir of Sea and Fire is a poetic portrayal of the world and the questions confronting it. Certainly an excellent addition to the series but waiting for the conclusion in the third.
A well-written furthing of the plot and deeping of the intensity and urgency of the questions facing the realm.
||The second-most beautful woman
in An, betrothed by her father to the person who can win the crown of
the riddler-ghost of Peven (Morgon). Is descended from Ylon, a
shape-changer who abandoned the land-rule for the sea. Can do
increasingly powerful illusions, mostly with light and fire.
||Captain of the Morgol of Herun’s
guards, and her land heir. Is willing to provide any help Raederle
||Younger sister of Morgon. Leaves Hed to search ask the High One why Morgon had to (seemingly) die.
||Ship-master of the King of An.
||Claimed to be the High One’s
harper, although he only served Ghisteslwcholm and betrayed Morgon to
him. Harped during Morgon’s tortuous imprisonment and lifted no
finger to help. Avoids death by reminding Morgon of his struggle
with being a man of peace.
||A land-ruler of An fathered by a
shape-changer. Was imprisoned but escaped and returned to the
sea. Was killed by Morgon in The
Riddle-Master of Hed when he was attacked by Ylon.
||A pighearder in An that taught
Raederle some simple illusions. Was, in reality, a wizard trapped
by Ghisteslwchlom and freed during Morgon’s battle with him.
||Dead King of Hel who was conquered by one of the kings of An. Bears an unrelenting grudge against An.|
||Often gold or silver, Raederle
knotted this thread and placed it where the person she desired to lead
astray would step on it. This person would then wander aimless
through the path the thread took.
|Control of fire
||Raederle could shape fire and
create its appearance
||Wizards apparently have some
control over land-rule, even though it is ultimately maintained by the
High One. Land-rule also binds the wraiths of Hel.
||Morgon can stow away his sword
into the air behind him and materialize it by touching the location.
||King Mathom of An often changes
to the shape of crow.