Faerielands: Something Rich and Strange

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
–The Tempest

Patricia McKillip wrote Something Rich and Strange as one of Brian Froud’s Faerielands series. This is a beautifully written, ethereal novel that earned the author the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award in 1995. It is my first McKillip, and I fell in love with her writing and decided that, although I liked all four books in Froud’s series, this book is my favorite!

Megan is an artist living at the ocean’s edge with Jonah, a collector who owns a shop named Things Rich and Strange. Each day, Megan takes her sketchpad and walks along the beach sketching seascapes and tidepools. She creates lovely drawings, but she also picks up all the garbage washed up by the waves. She returns home with pockets full of the flotsam and jetsam of thoughtless humans.

“…You can’t sweep the sea,” Jonah would say as she pulled garbage and treasure from her pockets. “No,” she would answer, “but I can tidy a tide pool.” Then she would show him her drawings. 

She had three that day: one a mound of sea urchins, one a carpet of anemones, and the last, which he lingered over longest, intent, musing, picking at his teeth with his thumb. He took his hand away from his mouth finally, pointed.

“I don’t recognize this.”

Megan looked over his shoulder; their heads touched. Sea lettuce, she was about to say, glancing at the shapeless, fluid lines. The word caught; her mouth stayed open. It wasn’t algae; it had an eye; it crawled across the bottom, small, rippling, horned. She took a breath, perplexed.

“I don’t either.”

Mysterious and magical creatures continue to sneak into her drawings, and then Megan and Jonah meet a most unusual brother and sister, both embodiments of the sea. Jonah becomes enamored of the sister, with her beautiful siren-like voice, and is finally lured into the sea. Megan must pay a price to find him and bring him back (if he wants to return). Part of that price is that both of them, and all of us, must understand that the sea is rich with life, and that our lives are directly connected to the health of the sea and all its creatures.

“…I sang to you because I need you to see me as I am now. You must find ways in your world to help me. I am no stronger than the most minute life in the sea. If you kill that, I begin to die. The smallest thing you can do to help me will give me strength to live.” 

McKillip’s message in this story is very important, but it doesn’t pound you over the head. It is all part of a lyrical, poetic, mystical tale…beautifully told.

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9 thoughts on “Faerielands: Something Rich and Strange

  1. Nymeth

    What a beautiful review, Robin! And the book sounds wonderful. It’s about time I read Patricia Mckillip. Judging by her short stories and by reviews like yours, I have the feeling I’ll love her.

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  2. Carl V.

    I’m so glad to read this assessment of the story, I’m going to HAVE to get this now. I became a Patricia McKillip fan at a pretty young age after my brother got me the first book in her Riddlemaster series. It is the first remembrance I have of reading adult (as opposed to YA) fantasy and so has a special meaning to me on a number of levels. I have most of her books and have enjoyed everything I’ve read. She is not always the most easy or accessible author, but she is a master. She has such lyricism to her writing. Ombria in Shadow is one of my favorite McKillip books and I highly recommend it.

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  3. Robin

    Thanks, Nymeth. I really liked her writing, so I’m anxious to try another one by her. I do think you’d like her stuff.

    Thanks for the recommendations, Carl. I’m putting Ombria in Shadow and her Riddlemaster series on my TBR list.

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  4. Rachael

    Wow. Not only is the book/series intriguing, but your review is pretty, too. I love the combination of magic, the sea and sketching. Thanks for the beautiful review!

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  5. oakling

    That does sound very beautiful! I especially love that she picks up trash at the beach. I do that! I was just doing it last week!

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  6. Booklogged

    I just finished my first by McKillip a few weeks ago. It was Atrix Wolfe and I really enjoyed it. I’m adding Something Rich and Strange and the two Carl recommends to my reading list. Thanks, Robin. Very beautiful review.

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  7. Rhinoa

    I think I have read a couple of her short stories, but definitely no novels. This sounds great and if you preferred this to Charles de Lint and Terri Windling it must be great! I will put it on my list thanks.

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  8. Robin

    Jenclair, I’m definitely going to be reading some more of her work!

    Thanks, Rachael. I loved the combination of magic, the sea and sketching, too. Plus, her language was so beautiful. I highly recommend it.

    Oakling, I loved her line “I can tidy a tidepool!” It sounds like you do the same thing. If we all did that…

    Booklogged, I’m adding Atrix Wolfe to my TBR list, too.

    Rhinoa, I did love it! But I’m definitely going to be reading more books by all three of them!

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