Odly enough, I didn’t find Od Magic to be as poetic as other McKillips I have read. It felt more as though it were a compilation of other of her stories.
We start with a sad story of Brenden Vetch nursing his brother and village through a terrible disease after losing their parents in the initial onslaught of the illness. His brother takes off into the world while Brenden chooses to stay and thoroughly immerse himself into the magic of the natural world around him. As Brenden roams, he comes across an odd bit of land with odder elements of which he can make no sense which, in its turn, causes Brenden to be visited by Od, a giantess of a woman who oozes magic. She hires him to take the place of the gardener of magic at her school in the capital city who is retiring. And so, Brenden heads to Kelior secure in Od’s promise that he can garden as he likes, take as long as he likes to discover what Od believes, and that he can leave anytime he likes.
Ah, well, it’s been hundreds of years since Od founded her school of magic in Kelior and the rules laid down for the school by the king are no longer those that had been agreed upon by Od and the king of that original school. Brenden’s arrival initiates the rebellion against the standard magics when both Wye and Yar decide not to tell the king of his presence—contrary to those current rules. The Princess Sulys has been learning little magics from her great-grandmother—not the proper magics through the school while an “illusionist”, Tyramin, has arrived in Kelior to entertain the populace utilizing who knows what strange magic.
And the rebellions come to a head when shy Brenden’s discovery of a new plant impels him to the Twilight Quarter in search of information where he falls afoul of Tyramin performing his illusions and Sulys determines that she cannot possibly marry the kingdom’s chief wizard, Valoren, until he knows of her magics except that she crosses paths with Ceta who has a new theory about the center of Od’s labyrinth. Well, let’s just say it becomes a bit Keystone Kops with Yar chasing after Sulys, Ceta, Brenden, and Tyramin and the Twilight Quarter Warden, Arneth, is after Tyramin and Sulys neither of whom wants to catch any of them while Valoren is desperately chasing after Brenden and Tyramin and not so anxiously after Yar and Sulys whereas the king wants them all. Desperately. Because, lord knows what awful things will happen if the magic isn’t kept reined in.
All the really important characters end up in the North where those odd elements are explored, discoveries are made, and everyone becomes happy. It’s cute. It’s sweet.
The cover is a natural McKillip—incredibly jewel-like and very reflective of the story. Yes, the characters are ones whom you will enjoy for the most part; there are only three whom you will curse—the brother is a bit of a misnomer.