by Patricia A. McKillip
In this 2008 release by a World Fantasy Award winner, the inhabitants of sleepy Sealey Head are shaken when a mysterious stranger arrives to inspect the mystical bell that rings every night. His arrival sets off a chain of romances, adventures, discoveries and unravelled secrets full of magic and mayhem.
The best quality of this book is its sense of place. McKillip does a superb job of adding details and story tidbits to make you feel like Sealey Head exists. It's a British-esque town in an unnamed magical land, just enough removed from history to make it fantasy. Her style of writing-- halfway between formality and casual banter-- suits the telling, reminding me of Victorian fairy tales. I quibbled a little with the character developement: none of her protagonists seemed to change. They may get lost or get married or free themselves from an overlord, but inwardly they remained the same. Some of the romantic sections seemed a bit childish.
Overall, this is a stunning fantasy and suited for readers of every age. Don't miss Sealey Head, and don't be put off by the "small town" mindset.