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Harrowing the Dragon [Paperback]

Patricia A. McKillip
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 8.92 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Books; Reprint edition (7 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441014437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441014439
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 872,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so Harrowing 15 Mar 2006
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Some authors are good at full-length books. Some are good at short stories. And then there are a rare few that can actually do both at the same time, with no lag in quality.
"Harrowing the Dragon" demonstrates that Patricia McKillip is one of the third group. These fifteen short stories -- previously published in various anthologies -- demonstrate how lushly textured writing and exquisite plots make McKillip's short stories almost as good as her full-length books.
She starts off the collection with two novella: the long out-of-print "Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath," a haunting story about an island kept in perpetual winter by a sleeping dragon, and a proud young man determined to stop it; and then there is "A Matter of Music," where a young bard tries to bring peace and music to the ones around her.
Then there are the smaller stories: A contemporary retelling of "The Snow Queen," where Kay is lured from his loving wife by a sultry woman, rural witches gather, a mysterious stranger changes the sky over a village, four women set out to rescue the Queen's bard, and a troll falls in love with a princess. It ends with a charming brief look at how the "frog prince" (who is actually a toad) sees the whole story.
This collection will be something of a godsend to McKillip's readers -- many of these stories were only available in out-of-print anthologies. So getting ahold of them was annoying, assuming that it was possible to find them at all. And this collection can serve as an introduction to McKillip's writing for new readers, if her lushly-written novels seem intimidating.
So it's nice to have (most of) her stories compiled together.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so "Harrowing" 28 Dec 2005
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Some authors are good at full-length books. Some are good at short stories. And then there are a rare few that can actually do both at the same time, with no lag in quality.
"Harrowing the Dragon" demonstrates that Patricia McKillip is one of the third group. These fifteen short stories -- previously published in various anthologies -- demonstrate how lushly textured writing and exquisite plots make McKillip's short stories almost as good as her full-length books.
She starts off the collection with two novella: the long out-of-print "Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath," a haunting story about an island kept in perpetual winter by a sleeping dragon, and a proud young man determined to stop it; and then there is "A Matter of Music," where a young bard tries to bring peace and music to the ones around her.
Then there are the smaller stories: A contemporary retelling of "The Snow Queen," where Kay is lured from his loving wife by a sultry woman, rural witches gather, a mysterious stranger changes the sky over a village, four women set out to rescue the Queen's bard, and a troll falls in love with a princess. It ends with a charming brief look at how the "frog prince" (who is actually a toad) sees the whole story.
This collection will be something of a godsend to McKillip's readers -- many of these stories were only available in out-of-print anthologies. So getting ahold of them was annoying, assuming that it was possible to find them at all. And this collection can serve as an introduction to McKillip's writing for new readers, if her lushly-written novels seem intimidating.
So it's nice to have (most of) her stories compiled together.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McKillip and shortstories = excellency 24 Nov 2005
By humanitysdarkerside VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This time Ace Books has printed several of McKillip's short stories. The first one goes back to 1982 while the youngest one is from 1999.
In this book McKillip deals with everything from idiocy to wisdom, going through the traits common to humans without being preachy. She deals with everything from dragons who have a hold on a mountain to girls who are caught up in their father's promises. Some of these books are versions on folk tales while others deal with the old classics (such as Romeo and Juliet).
As always, McKillip does herself proud. How she manages to hit her prose so firmly on the nail is beyond me. Except for one all of her books have touched me and left me feeling good - even though not all of her endings are ideal (seen from the protaganist's point of view). I hope that you too will enjoy this book.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so "Harrowing" 6 Nov 2005
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Some authors are good at full-length books. Some are good at short stories. And then there are a rare few that can actually do both at the same time, with no lag in quality.

"Harrowing the Dragon" demonstrates that Patricia McKillip is one of the third group. These fifteen short stories -- previously published in various anthologies -- demonstrate how lushly textured writing and exquisite plots make McKillip's short stories almost as good as her full-length books.

She starts off the collection with two novella: the long out-of-print "Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath," a haunting story about an island kept in perpetual winter by a sleeping dragon, and a proud young man determined to stop it; and then there is "A Matter of Music," where a young bard tries to bring peace and music to the ones around her.

Then there are the smaller stories: A contemporary retelling of "The Snow Queen," where Kay is lured from his loving wife by a sultry woman, rural witches gather, a mysterious stranger changes the sky over a village, four women set out to rescue the Queen's bard, and a troll falls in love with a princess. It ends with a charming brief look at how the "frog prince" (who is actually a toad) sees the whole story.

This collection will be something of a godsend to McKillip's readers -- many of these stories were only available in out-of-print anthologies. So getting ahold of them was annoying, assuming that it was possible to find them at all. And this collection can serve as an introduction to McKillip's writing for new readers, if her lushly-written novels seem intimidating.

So it's nice to have (most of) her stories compiled together. It also displays the range of her abilities -- she can do humour and tragedy, fantasy and realism, and even rework older stories. Not much is added to the "Beauty and the Beast" retelling, except for McKillip's use of the ancient Psyche legend. Instead, it's the beauty of her language.

McKillip's writing is known for its incandescent quality; she fills it with jewels, flames, music, snow, griffins, witches and fantastical creatures. Her writing can be clear and sharp as an icicle, or as rich and soft as aged velvet. Even stories that could have been goofy or gimmicky -- like her recounting of "Romeo and Juliet's" aftermath -- surprisingly beautiful and poignant.

After many years, Patricia McKillip's shorter writings are finally compiled into "Harrowing the Dragon," a charming read full of magic and mystery.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the Year, to Date 1 Nov 2005
By biblio.phage - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Patricia A. McKillip's first-ever collection of short fiction is a winner, every bit as rewarding as her fine novels, better in some ways. It's a showcase of small gems from an author obviously just as comfortable and accomplished in the short form as in the long.

As in her best novels--OMBRIA IN SHADOW, SONG FOR THE BASILISK, ALPHABET OF THORN--McKillip's strength lies in creating both strong, attractive characters and a sense of atmosphere that draws the reader in. The beauty of these stories is the economy and pace at which these things are accomplished; while each piece completes it's arc in a completely satisfactory (and author-ly) way, there were several times I found myself wishing I was reading a novel, and that there would be more about these people and places forthcoming.

There was not a story that I didn't like, not a one I thought wasn't among the best fantasy fiction I have read this year. Some are so good, you have to wonder why McKillip doesn't get far more attention than she does, and what this says about the exposure and attention given to short fantasy in the market today.

Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous fantasy collection 2 Nov 2005
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This compilation of fifteen fantasies written in the 1980s (4) and 1990s (11) by award-winner Patricia A. McKillip are all delightful tales that showcases a wonderful author who is as comfortable with short stories as she is with novels. Few writers can match Ms. McKillip's skills with taking the standard sub-genre rudiments and turning them into the tools of Od Magic that make her such a terrific fantasist. All are superior entries, but this reviewer especially enjoyed the retelling of fairy tales. Each of the contributions is different, but share in common messages involving freedom to choose. Fans will enjoy this strong enticing anthology with tales like the official crime scene investigators looking into the suspicious deaths of Romeo and Juliet that seem so much like a murder-suicide crime of passion. A terrific imagination makes this a fine reading experience.

Harriet Klausner
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Hoarsbreath is a Dragon's Heart..." 14 Feb 2007
By R. M. Fisher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Patricia A. McKillip is the author of several wonderful books (my favourites being "Alphabet of Thorn" and "Winter Rose") and is one of the few fantasists in the publishing world that is original. Although her stories may contain typical fantasy elements (dragons, heroes, kingdoms, quests, good versus evil, etc) they are written in such beautiful poetic-prose that the stories transcend the clichés they stem from; reading more as luminous fairytales than hum-drum fantasy. Although the prose is beautiful, it is also an acquired taste. When I was first introduced to her work, I found it rather difficult to adjust to a story that was often hidden under such dense, rich language. Of course, it's worth it in the end, but for those just starting out on McKillip, perhaps this anthology of short stories is a good starting place.

And for those already well-versed in the magic of McKillip's writing, a series of stories is an added bonus to add to a collection. McKillip is just as skilled in the creation of short stories as she is in full-length novels, and sometimes a quick-fix of her work is just what a devoted reader needs. Containing fifteen stories (some of which span a few pages, others which are better described as novellas); there's enough variety amongst them to keep each one fresh and interesting.

In the story that gives the book its title, "Harrowing the Dragon", a dragon-slayer comes to the island of Hoarsbreath in order to harrow the dragon from its shores. He is joined by a native of the island, a young woman who isn't too sure if she wants the dragon to go. "A Matter of Music" concerns Cresce Dami, a bard who has freshly graduated from her school with ambitions of playing in Daghian. Attempting to negotiate her way through the rules and etiquette of playing music in a high court, Cresce becomes involved in the political machinations of the countries surrounding her. These stories are by far the longest in the entire book, and are typical of McKillip's wonderful world-building and imagery.

McKillip borrows from other fairytales too: in "Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer's Son", she uses the Russian folklore of Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged house to imagine a meeting between the witch and a young wizard who needs her help, whilst the Hans Christian Anderson tale of "The Snow Queen" imagines a contemporary setting in which Kay cheats on his devoted wife Gerda with a beautiful stranger...but Gerda - whose entire life has revolved around Kay - finds a hidden strength of her own to survive his betrayal. "The Lion and the Lark" is an amalgamation of several fairytales, (most obviously Beauty and the Beast, though keep your eyes open for the others) which makes it a little predictable, though ends with an image of amazing imaginary force. Finally, in the story that ends the book, "Toad" is an explanatory back-story of "The Frog Prince", explaining why the prince would agree to marry such a spoilt princess. McKillip looks deep into the imagery at work throughout the fairytale, using the golden ball and the frog's intrusion into the princess's life as a metaphor for her burgeoning maturity. I'll never look at the Frog Prince the same way again.

As well as building on other sources, McKillip creates fairytales all her own. In "A Troll and Two Roses" she weaves the tale of an ugly troll who becomes enraptured by a beautiful rose and its connection to two enchanted lovers, while in "The Fellowship of the Dragon" five bards go out in search of the Queen's favourite harper, only to fall prey to the traps and snares strewn throughout the wood they must traverse. "Lady of the Skulls" (one of my favourites) involves a mysterious tower in the desert, to which many questing knights travel, attracted by the promise that should they take the most precious thing that it holds, they will be allowed to keep it. The catch? If they choose wrongly, they die. Then there's "The Stranger", which concerns a man who forms dragons out of the colours in nature and his own imagination, and the weaver-woman who tries to prevent him from the destruction he wreaks. In "Voyage into the Heart", we are privy to a unicorn hunt in which the bait (a young virgin naturally) is unaware of her part to play in its capture.

There are two other stories that don't seem to fit into any category: "The Witches of Junket", which involves three prodigal grand-daughters returning to their hometown to help destroy an escaping evil, and my personal favourite "Starcrossed", which concerns the investigation into the deaths of Romeo and Juliet by a soldier who is disillusioned with love. It's a fantastic concept, and McKillip pulls it off brilliantly.

Lastly there are two little stories (which come across more like experimental writing exercises) "Ash, Wood, Fire" and "Transmutations", the former concerning the dynamics of a medieval kitchen, the latter exploring what goes on in an alchemical laboratory. They are probably the weakest stories of the anthology, but they are both reasonably short (and with other such exemplary stories on display, it doesn't really bear complaining about). Besides, thirteen out of fifteen ain't bad.

Altogether, this is a great collection and a must for any McKillip (not to mention K. Y. Craft, who always provides beautiful cover art) fan.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are no better writers than Patricia McKillip 27 Aug 2006
By DeAnn Rossetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Patricia McKillip is my favorite fantasy writer for a reason. She hasn't written one bad paragraph in her entire career, and I've read everything she's written. I've been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy for 40 years, and I've never come across an author whose fantasy was quite as gorgeous as McKillips. Her characters are fascinating, her plots move at a meandering, but decent pace, and her worlds are lush and dreamlike. I always feel as if I've had one of those miraculous moments of connectivity with the magic of the world when I read her work. Everything takes on a brilliant cast, and the world seems a beautiful place because of her gracious work. This book is no exception, filled with generous chapters of rich storytelling. I can't recommend it enough, but then, I recommend all of her books. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, but I must say that I adored the Book of Atrix Wolfe, and Winter Rose.
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