I'm sure that I could have found time before this, of course, given that almost a year has passed-- that is, if I really wanted to. But time and time again, I found myself not wanting to return to McKillip's fantasy-world, which as I noted before, was too often marred by soundalike characters and tedious journeys that had all the thrills of watching someone else's home movies.
HARPIST, though, is a little better, and may be the principal reason I remembered liking the trilogy from my initial reading over 20 years ago. The first book is devoted to setting up the hero Morgon, and the second to establishing his intended consort Raederle. Both of them encounter various supporting characters, but none of them proved memorable, and so they accomplished little beyond marking time. However, HARPIST for the most part deals with both the passion and the tensions between the two nobles, and for that reason is much more successful than the first parts.
There's still a major problem in that the motivations of the villains-- a wizard with a long Welsh-inspired name that I choose not to type out, and a race of shapechanging creatures-- are inadequately clarified. But in the battles of Morgon and Raederle, McKillip finally plays to her strengths: the invocation of wild faerie magics. Tanith Lee she's not, but she has some fine moments:
The sun came out abruptly for a few moments before it drifted into night. Light glanced across the land, out of silver veins of rivers, and lakes dropped like small coin on the green earth.
For charity's sake I'll assume a typesetting error turned "coins" into "coin."
So, thanks to some strong passages in the third book, the re-read was not entirely a waste of time. But for some time it did seem like the road to McKillip's world went ever on, and on, and on...