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Literature: The Bell at Sealey Head

The Bell at Sealey Head is a 2008 fantasy novel by Patricia A. McKillip.


Contains examples of:

  • Arranged Marriage: Princess Ysabo is told she will marry a knight, and when she asks why she must, the knight hits her. Her servant is distraught — that she would question it.
  • Baleful Polymorph: It turns out that the bell is the enchanted Queen Hydria, and the crows her enchanted knights.
  • Blue Blood: Various families in the book. Because Raven Sproule is courting Gwyneth Blair, a merchant's daughter, Gwyneth rather suspects the Sproules are Impoverished Patrician.
  • Clever Crows: Once Emma opens a door to find Princess Ysabo surrounded by a dozen crows. This proves to be part of a ritual which Princess Ysabo is bound to. And in the end, they proved to be transformed knights.
  • Cool Gate: Emma keeps opening doors and finding Princess Ysabo. She never dares go in for fear that she can't come back. And one day when she opens the door to her grandmother's room, it shows the princess in a different room. She closes it, reopens it, and finds her grandmother's room.
  • Curse: The book revolves about a wizard's curse.
  • Dances and Balls: Dalia mulls over what to invite Miranda Beryl to: a ball or a dinner with dancing. Since she arrived because a woman is dying and she will inherit, a ball is shot down as too festive.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Sometimes Emma opens a door and meets up with the Princess Ysabo; they talk, but Emma never dares go into the room for fear the door won't open for her.
  • First Name Basis: When Ridley Dow is caught by magic, Miranda Beryl gets him to the door calling him by his first name. She continues to call him by it as she is getting him somewhere to rest.
  • Hidden Depths: Miranda Beryl arrives at the house of her dying relative and seems a perfect city-loving Blue Blood. Then, when Emma see Ridley Dow caught in magic and is unable to rescue him, Miranda calls him by his first name, which works, and arranges for him to be brought to a room with total competence and complete disregard for what happens to her clothes in the process — and evinces knowledge about magic. Whereupon she recruits Emma to help her keep up the facade of a Blue Blood heiress waiting for her inheritance.
  • High-Class Glass: Mr. Moren eyes Emma with a monocle while quizzing her about where the heiress, Miranda Beryl, went. (And expresses disdain for the local squire's son while he's about it.)
  • The High Queen: Ysabo hears a great deal about Queen Hydria and her court. In the ending, she helps rescue them and learns she was living in the queen's enchanted court.
  • I Know Your True Name: When Ridley Dow is caught in the magic, Emma's calling "Mr. Dow" does not lead him to the Cool Gate, but Miranda Beryl's use of "Ridley" does.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Gwyneth suspects the Sproules are this, because Raven Sproule is courting her, a merchant's daughter.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Princess Ysabo's home also has many knights, and part of her prescribed rituals is to perform certain services for them, filling cups with wine. She is told she must marry one, and when she asks why, he hits her. However, this turn out to be false knights, not even human. The crows she feeds every day as part of the ritual are in fact the true knights, and when restored, they behave in a much more knightly manner.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Ysabo is told the reason she must submit to the Arranged Marriage is to have a child; her mother and grandmother are baffled by her resistance, since she must have one.
  • Old Retainer: Lady Eglatyne's cook is distraught as the lady is dying. She can find another place, but she had served Lady Eglatyne since she was a little girl.
  • Pirate: Invoked: Dalia wants Gwyneth to write about pirates. When Raven objects that pirates are uncouth and wouldn't know what to do with tea — probably use the teapot to drink rum — Dalia objects that she wants nice pirates who were driven to it and would be glad to give it up.
  • Spell Book: Ysabo's ritual includes turning one page in a blank book every day. When Ridley Dow appears, he shows her it filled with marvelous images, and says it is a magic book. It turns out to be the book into which Queen Hydria's court has been enchanted.
  • We Can Rule Together: When Nemos Moore learns that Ridley Dow is his great to the nth grand nephew (how many generations is never made clear), and Dow rejects the notion of leaving, Moore offers to teach him magic — and perhaps, in time, to think like him.
  • Wild Hair: Emma's mother Hesper went to live in a tree in the forest. She had always been neat at her grandmother's, but now she has wild hair.

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