The Gift

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 15, 1998

The Gift by Patrick O’Leary

Nine people attended this meeting. Eight had finished the book, and four had also read O’Leary’s prior book Door Number Three. Typically for O’Leary, The Gift is hard to describe succinctly. It’s a fantasy novel full of traditional tropes like a cursed prince, a woodcutter’s son, a quest, and dragons, To further complicate things, the book is structured like a set of fairy tales wrapped inside one another. And the plot is an ambitious story about the “last magic makers on Earth.”

We were impressed by this book’s ambitions and its many successes. The story is at times delightful, charming, and dark, and it is told in spirals and twists. And best of all, the spirals are wrapped together in a logical way that comes together in the end. One person compared the structure to Dan Simmons’s Hyperion. We liked several of the non-human races created in this book, particularly the delightful griffs. The use of dragons is original, and for once we get a good explanation for why they like gold. Best of all, this book concludes in a single volume.

Some of us voiced complaints. The characters are generally shallow and serve merely as plot devices, in sharp contrast to the well-developed characters in Door Number Three. Another person felt that this book had too many ideas and that the story was all over the map. Several noted that late in the book, O’Leary introduces feminist story elements that don’t mesh well with the rest of the story.

This is a clever, challenging book full of invention and crafted with great care. We all found much to admire and like in the book. Patrick O’Leary’s second novel is nothing like his first, and we suspect that we have more delightful surprises in store with his upcoming works.

— A. T. Campbell, III