Beagle, Peter: Innkeeper’s Song, The

Peter Beagle’s The Innkeeper’s Song is one of my favorite books. It is a rare example of non-epistolary multiple first-person narration (I can’t think of another off the top of my head, but I’m sure someone will be along any minute to remind me), which is mostly why I like it so much. I’m a sucker for narrative voice, and all of these are great.

Tikat and Lukassa are engaged. When Lukassa falls in a river and drowns, she is raised from the dead by Lal, a student of a wizard who has been betrayed by his last student. Because Lukassa does not remember her life, she flees from Tikat and accompanies Lal to the inn of the title. There, they and others attempt to aid the wizard in his continuing struggle.

On this re-read, I do have a little quibble: one of the characters, early, denies knowledge of something that is revealed at the end of the book, which is inconsistent with the years-past retrospective of the rest of that character’s narration. (Most of the characters are explicitly telling their part of the tale to someone else years later, though I doubt this would work for one of them.) But except for that, I think the voices are wonderful, well-characterized both generally and in what they reveal and conceal.

This is also a good book for those who like their magic mysterious and atmospheric. It reminds me a bit of Robin McKinley, perhaps Spindle’s End, though slightly less abstract, and even more focused on illuminating character than the world. If that’s your kind of thing, do check it out.

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  1. This is one of my favorite books ever. The voice is so beautifully done, and each character is magnificently distinct from the others.

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